Toni's I.C.T. Blog

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Vision Statement

November23

The aim of this vision statement is to discuss my personal philosophy for ICT in schools. Whilst considering what my own personal philosophy for ICT actually is, I realised that any philosophy for a certain curriculum area will always reflect your philosophy for education in general. Firstly and most importantly I believe that a school curriculum should be relevant to real life, as one of the aims of compulsory education is to prepare children for successful lives as adults and valuable members of society (Bailey and Earl, 2010). Secondly, a curriculum should have an equal balance of knowledge and skills. Providing children with mines of information, however relevant, will never solely ensure that they become fully rounded individuals. Teaching them how to find, access, retrieve, analyse, evaluate and justify information is another matter and this is just a fraction of what can be considered a comprehensive skill set. Thirdly, sessions in schools should be cross-curricular. Not cross-curricular in the way that we draw tenuous links between topics to tick a box, but cross-curricular in the way that highlights if and how things are truly connected in the real world. In fact I. and J. Siraj-Blatchford (2006) argue that ICT is often ‘bolted onto existing educational practices’ (p39) instead of being used to extend learning. In short, we need to encourage children to think for themselves and be aware of what the world has in store for them.

So what does this mean for ICT provision? It means that relevant matters need to be addressed. Issues such as digital literacy, digital citizenship and e-safety should be integral to everything as they are integral to technology in today’s society. Digital literacy is the development of knowledge and skills necessary to get by in this technological world. JISC supports my emphasis of keeping real-life and practical applications in mind by highlighting the necessity to understand technology in everyday life. Digitalcitizenship.net describes the nine core elements of digital citizenship which reflect the responsibilities and attitudes that using technology nowadays demands of us. I think these truly take into account where our society is in terms of technology, so please take a look. E-safety is something which has already made a place for itself on the school timetable. Children are taught to look both ways before crossing the road and online safety is no different and certainly no less significant. The issues of e-safety (such as cyber-bullying, grooming, etc.) are digital reflections of dangers in the real world, and certainly themselves become dangers in the real world, if not addressed properly. The wide range of resources and information available to children, parents and teachers (e.g. thinkuknow, kidsmart, lgfl) shows how important it is for children to learn how to stay safe online.

More specifically, I believe the ICT Programme of Study should encompass ICT that is valued in our society. Haughton (2012) outlines five areas of ICT: text and graphics, digital creativity, research and communication, computing and multimedia authoring. I think these groups accurately reflect the types of ICT skills which are relevant today and allow for a wide range of worthwhile cross-curricular experiences. After all, Ager (2003) states that ‘the more subjects in which ICT is used… the higher the standards that are achieved in both those subjects,’ (p16). Text and graphics can include using a variety of word processing software and hardware (e.g. keyboards, touch screen computers) to create for instance a letter to the local council regarding local recycling. Computing can include using programs such as Kodu, Cargo Bot and Scratch to create games, tell a story or problem solve. Multimedia authoring could include using iPad’s iMovie to document a science experiment. All of these are grounded in real life through the activities, equipment, software and the skills which they develop.

So how far does the draft ICT curriculum reflect my philosophy and ideas? The three strands are very important and the Department for Education clearly agrees that good ICT provision will benefit children enormously. But they also propose that ICT will benefit from children and this was something that had not occurred to me! However, I think that each objective is a little broad and collectively they emphasise certain aspects more than others, primarily Computer Science. I think the range of experiences should be made clear, for example through the areas named above and that the difference between theory and practice should be better defined. But the most important thing to remember is that the curriculum puts forward what children should learn, not how.

For me the most important point to make is that just as technology evolves, so does everything else. Education should not be rigid, but (as mentioned at the start) should reflect the nature of the times and the society in which we live. These things change. We should be prepared to change with them. Just look at how technology has developed over the past fifty years! This has had a huge impact on our society. And of course, change in ICT provision has coincided with this. Somekh (2007) argues that ICT is an innovation in progress. Why should that stop now? I certainly doubt that my ideas for successful ICT in schools now will be the same in fifty years. I think that as long as we ensure that ICT provision (and indeed education in general) is relevant, continually evaluated and adapted when needed, we will be doing the best for our children. So come back in fifty years and we can start all over again!

References for printed sources

Ager, R. (2003) Information and communications technology in primary schools. London: David Fulton.

Bailey, R. and Earl, J. (2010) The aims of primary education. In: Arthur, J. and Cremin, T. Learning to teach in the primary school. Abingdon: Routledge. Pp. 180-191.

Siraj-Blatchford, I. and J. (2006) A guide to developing the ICT curriculum for early childhood education. Stoke on Trent: Trentham Books.

Somekh, B. (2007) Pedagogy and learning with ICT. Abingdon: Routledge.

Green screening: in school and real-life

November22

I didn’t actually try out the green screening apps on the iPad but I thought that it would be great to use in schools! You could introduce a topic with a video of yourself, transport children all over the globe (and beyond!) or through history using this technology. Children could create a weather or news report in Geography, recreate a historical event in History, create their own short film in Literacy or create a school play to show on the IWB without having to make numerous backdrops!

However, it seems that the tools aren’t very straightforward to use. Reading Jenny’s blog made me realise that you have to have a lot of patience and a solid knowledge of the software you use, which definitely calls for a little playing around on the part of the teacher! But I think the results are worth the effort, and as we know with technology, there’s always something better around the corner! So I would like to give it a try when possible, and I definitely think my own ICT skills (and patience!) will improve because of it.

The main reason I like green screening is how it is used in real-life, and I think there are some great ways of inspiring children using these. Of course there’s the weather reports, probably the best known use of the green screen. But it is so much more than that! I had a conversation with my dad about Boardwalk Empire, a programme we both love. If you haven’t seen it, you must. Now. Stop reading this and watch it.

Back? Good. When my dad told me they used green screening in making a lot of the set of Boardwalk Empire, I told him he was crazy. There was no way that wasn’t real! But, to my amazement, he was right! It isn’t filmed in Atlantic City where it’s set, it’s filmed in Brooklyn, nowhere near the sea! Take a look at this…

Good eh?

I also saw a little bit of the making of Call of Duty Black Ops 2, although unfortunately I can’t find a clip to share with you. They used green screening and other technology to make the characters life-like: the clip I saw had actor Michael Rooker (Days of Thunder anyone?) with wire mesh on his face to monitor his facial expressions! I thought it was all computer animated, again I was wrong!

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iMovie, and my new found love of iPads

November22

So in our second session on mobile technologies we got to choose what we used in order to make a resource for school. I had a great time using iMovie with Ben and Kirstie! First of all, although you don’t want to hear it, I think we had some great discussions and the group work/nature of iMovie really did offer lots of opportunity for talk (sorry to mention that word after our assignment everyone!)

Ben was our expert and showed us how it worked, which I found really useful. I had never used iMovie before and he had used it in the previous session. I think this is a good way of organising pupils in schools too; it would make the lesson flow a lot better with several people being able to answer questions or solve problems. Helen told us about the concept of Digital Leaders, where children lead ICT developments in schools under the coordinator. They can train teachers, show children how to use equipment, etc. It sounds like a great project which really takes the pressure off teachers! It also encourages a real interest in ICT as it has a purpose: sharing knowledge. Here’s a great blog post about a staff meeting Digital Leaders held with the aim of teaching teachers how to use iPads; it’s just lovely!

But don’t worry everyone, just because Ben was our Digital Leader for the session doesn’t mean we let him boss us about! iMovie has so many different features that we were all involved in discussing what our project was going to be, what theme to use, what sort of shots we needed, what text would best suit our story, what facial expressions and actions we should use, etc. etc. There are lots of technical and creative aspects to using iMovie and it would make a great way of developing teamwork, decision-making and creativity skills in schools, with a really fun (and educational!) purpose. I went away feeling that I had really learned something valuable, which was nice! Not only did Ben show us the ins and outs of iMovie, but I got to have a try with filming and editing myself, so now I have experience in a very versatile app which will come in handy in school! I also think that learning how to use this helps with navigating your way around similar software, so I definitely think this has helped improve my ICT skills.

We decided to retell a traditional tale but I think there’s lots of scope for using iMovie. You can make a short biography of a historical figure, map a journey in geography, document a school trip or science experiment, film your own short story or play, make an animated film (I used Movie Maker in a Year 4 class and I just wish they had had iPads as that was a struggle!) make an action movie trailer about the issues of sustainability, create an advertisement, create a presentation… you get the idea. It can be used across the curriculum and to be honest, I think this app alone makes iPads worth buying! I’m sold anyway! Here’s a great example of using iMovie in a cross-curricular way. It links art, geography, science, ICT and literacy. Phew!

 

 

So thanks Ben and Kirstie for a fun session! I think our resource makes a great model to show children how iMovie can be used to retell a story. Without further ado- our iMovie project: Little Blue Riding Hood. Ice creams later! 😀

 

iPads: love them or hate them?

November7

Unfortunately I was ill during the first mobile technologies session, so I had a look at the module guide, had a read online and chatted to some of you to see what I missed. It seems that the session was based around the teaching and learning potential of mobile technologies, so here goes…
Using mobile technologies in schools seems to make sense, as things like mobile phones are such a common possession even amongst primary aged children. It links home and school, showing that things you do in school relate to the real world and it makes sure children are kept aware of modern technological advances as, of course, not every child will have the opportunity to use specific technologies elsewhere.
So on we go to the iPad, which must be the only mobile technology on offer considering the amount of literature, blogs and articles there are about them on the Internet! Don’t get me wrong, I understand that the iPad can do what most other mobile technologies can but all-in-one: they have a camera and video function, they can record sound, you can communicate with others, etc. I understand why people are so interested in them. In our P.E. assignment last year I planned a lesson using iPads as an assessment tool because they can do all of the things mentioned above, here’s the plan if you’re interested: iPads in Gymnastics But when we tried them out last year I admit I couldn’t see too much educational value in the apps we looked at, at least not as much as people were saying, and definitely not how I saw them being used in school. In some schools, if they are even available, iPads are used either for games or for SEN pupils to use. This last point really devalues the iPad, as some teachers see them as things that only SEN pupils should use “because they can’t do the actual work set.” This is terrible and I apologise if I am offending anyone, I certainly do not agree with this myself, but that is the impression I get. And their attitude to SEN pupils is reflected in their attitude to iPads- they aren’t as good as other resources, but OK for children with SEN. That, or they are good to keep children occupied, but not very educationally valuable. Then in other schools, iPads are the best invention ever and teachers use them all the time in every lesson even when there isn’t much point…
Anyone else experienced this in schools? iPads certainly seem to have the Marmite effect!
So I set out to learn a bit more about how iPads can be used effectively in schools. For all children. The iPads in Education website is a great starting point for using iPads in schools, I definitely recommend taking a look. It provides app ideas for all areas of the curriculum, although it is managed by someone who freelances for Apple, so bear that in mind! The InterAction Education website is also very useful, with resources and official guides on how to use iPads in classrooms. However, Ben Johnson’s and Silvia Tolisano’s blogs highlight that teachers focus too much on using apps in lessons. Their main point is that we should focus on children using iPads as a learning tool rather than us using them as a teaching tool, so I’ve learnt to keep this in mind when looking at apps. There seems to be an app for everything nowadays, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they all will help children learn something. It’s easy to get carried away by their novelty, but that novelty will soon wear off so we need to make sure children understand their potential for learning. The only way we can do that is if we understand it ourselves. I think the best way to achieve this is to experiment with iPads ourselves, whilst keeping in mind that just because an app is linked to what you are teaching it doesn’t mean it will add anything to your lesson other than time.

Scratch

October25

So we’ve now spent two sessions looking at Scratch, a programming program aimed at children and recommended for use in schools in response to the current emphasis on computing. My initial reaction was positive when I saw what we could make using Scratch: games, stories, etc. The kid in me got excited! I also think it is great that there is so much available ready-made online- saves teachers a job!

But I have to be completely honest here: after a little while of experimenting for the first time I got very, very bored. Did that have anything to do with the fact I was frustrated I couldn’t do exactly what I wanted? Maybe…! I was frustrated that I couldn’t find certain functions. This is why my first attempt of designing a game last week is unfinished! (Unfortunately I forgot to save it to my memory stick so I will have to add it to another post). But this is completely my fault for two reasons. First of all, I am an adult. I shouldn’t be so impatient! Secondly, I should have taken a Scratch card and learnt a little before diving straight in. But in my defence, who reads the instructions to anything ever? I thought that I would be able to learn through having a play and trial and error. I didn’t do too badly, but this really showed me that systematic teaching may be necessary in schools. When Helen said before we started that everything we cover in sessions would be about six weeks’ worth of teaching, I was horrified! I thought that systematic teaching would take the fun and creativity out of it, for pupils and teachers! I suppose this harks back to my previous computing post, I don’t know what to think of it until I see it in schools. However, some teachers have said the trial and error approach works well: have a look at this article. I suppose it depends on the class itself and it is up to teachers to choose how to apply this in classrooms.

In terms of my ICT development…well, I had absolutely no real, first-hand experience of programming! My partner did a little at university, but I don’t count watching him make traffic lights work as experience. Also, although I know that all software, programs, video games, etc. are programmed, I didn’t realise there were programs which amateurs could use to make something interesting. I mean, traffic lights… who cares?! So these sessions were really useful-imagine going into a school and having to teach programming without having these sessions! However, I feel that I need a lot more practise to be able to confidently teach Scratch, let alone any other similar program. I suppose the great thing about the nature of programming is that it is basically problem-solving; you don’t need to know how to do everything. You just need the right attitude and a problem-solving approach. That’s the theory anyway!

Our second session was interesting. Claire, Laura and I made the Habitat Match game below which could be used in Science as a starter/plenary activity to assess/develop children’s habitat understanding or in ICT as a model/basis for children’s own games. Please see the attached document below for the ideas we came up with in session and a few of my own. If you can think of some more please comment!

Learn more about this project
Scratch Habitat Match

I think we worked very well as a team as we shared out the tasks. Claire and I mainly focused on building the project and Laura was fantastic and typed up our ideas for how to use it in the classroom, along with how it links to the National Curriculum. I found that working as a group is probably the best way to use Scratch as we could all share our ideas and knowledge. The game we made was certainly better than the one I tried to make last week! I would definitely let children work with Scratch in pairs or groups, although I would give them focused criteria so they don’t spend all their time talking about what to do instead of doing it! Also, I would either assign the children roles within the group so everyone was learning or tell them that they have to swap seats after a certain amount of time so that each child physically got a chance to program. You could also give them a joint project to do, e.g. create their own Habitat Match, and then get children to change/improve/extend it individually. This second session also showed me how cross-curricular computing can be. In fact, most of the ideas we thought of when discussing what to make were directly linked to some other part of the curriculum, for example creating Scratch stories from storyboards in Literacy. Giving the projects a cross-curricular focus makes them interesting and gives programming a context, something I think the Control part of the old ICT curriculum was lacking. This is important as children need to know that all programming does have a point and it is used in real-life contexts all the time.

Draft ICT Programmes of Study

October10

In response to my post on computer literacy, and as a result of more browsing, I found the proposed ICT curriculum. Can’t believe I couldn’t find it before! Here it is if you are interested: Draft ICT POS

It’s very short, very concise, and seems to reflect the current situation of giving schools freedom to teach the three strands how they see fit. What do you all think of it?

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Computer Literacy: necessary or a flash in the pan?

October9

I was actually quite surprised when Helen told us that Computing was going to play a major role in the new ICT Programme of Study- I could see that it probably is a contentious issue. On one hand, why shouldn’t children- and people in general- learn how something they use every day works? We as a society are becoming more reliant on an expert few in all sorts of fields nowadays, which fuels the argument that it “just isn’t like the good old days!” I mean, how many of us understand how an engine works? And how many of us drive a car? And how many have sat by the side of the road waiting for the AA to rescue us only for them to tell us that we need to put oil in the car, or that the car won’t start because the immobilizer’s on? (These things have actually happened to people I know!) On the other hand however you would have to be a super genius to understand how everything you use works and, as we’ve found, you can get away with just knowing how to use it and leave everything else to the experts! But the Computing At School Working Group (CAS) is saying that these experts will soon be few and far between. Enter the new Programme of Study. The idea is to increase interest in and knowledge of Computer Science for the next generation of experts. But this is a discipline which will need very careful implementation to make it engaging and interesting for children, especially primary pupils. Enter the bemused teachers. And what exactly will we be teaching in schools? We looked into the programming side of Computing over two sessions, but what about coverage of electronic systems, for example? Computing isn’t just programming. So I went to investigate…

…And found very little. Perhaps one of you could shed some more light on the matter? Feel free to comment! Basically, we know that the new Programmes of Study (whatever they may contain) will be statutory from 2014. We know that until then, the previous ones are being scrapped. Michael Gove says this will gives schools the freedom to teach what they want in terms of ICT and sees this as a positive. We also know that computer and business bigwigs such as Google and Microsoft are heavily involved and are already creating resources for schools. I think it is great that the government are seeking the advice of those who work in the field of ICT/Computer Science- such a novel idea!! But let’s be realistic and look at it from the perspective of what is happening in schools. Firstly, is giving schools freedom to do what they want in the interim a good idea? This means until 2014 there could potentially be huge inconsistency in the education children receive. I’m not sure I like this- I believe all children are entitled to an equal level of education. This idea mirrors the debate around academies, but I won’t go there! Secondly, how far is the new PoS going to take into account all of the wonderful, revolutionary things that schools are supposedly going to be teaching until 2014? Some schools may see this as giving with one hand and taking away with the other.

I just don’t know what to think about this to be honest with you! And I don’t think that this will change until I experience ICT/Computing first hand in schools. I mean, computing experts themselves can’t agree whether this is a good idea! Some say that computer literacy is as vital to modern life as reading and writing, and much the same as both those skills; and others completely disagree. This quote from ReadWriteWeb made me smile:

‘Atwood argues that verbal literacy is a different kind of skill, and more fundamental. “Literacy is the new literacy,” he told ReadWriteWeb. “As much as I love code, if my fellow programmers could communicate with other human beings one-tenth as well as they communicate with their interpreters and compilers, they’d have vastly more successful careers.”’

What do you think? Is computer literacy necessary, or a flash in the pan?

E-Safety? That’s just for kids isn’t it?

October8

The idea of keeping children safe isn’t something new…obviously… but I think the most interesting thing about E-safety is that whereas in the real world adults are aware of risks and how to prevent them, you find that a lot of adults aren’t aware of or even care about the dangers online. If adults can’t keep themselves safe online, or have a relaxed attitude about it, how do we expect children to be aware and safe? You only have to spend a bit of time in a Year Six classroom to see how desperate some children are to be seen as “adults”. I personally think it’s all about attitude… we need to overcome the urge to put our thoughts online as soon as they enter our heads (isn’t that right Mr. Cole?!) and realise that actions have consequences… even on the Internet. I think the biggest problem isn’t our search filter settings, or limiting sites children visit (these precautions have become part of everyday online life for a lot of people and can easily be adopted if not) but developing common sense when it comes to the Internet. And this starts with us adults. What do you think?

How we can do this, as teachers or parents/carers etc, is another matter! But I think a good place to start would be educating ourselves and reflecting on what we do. We can all reel off a list of potential threats/dangers to anybody online and how best we can go about preventing them (as proved by our discussion in class), and yet some people still don’t set their Facebook page to private or think about what they post online. I would like to point out that I don’t have anyone I know in mind; just the umpteen stories about this you here in the news! It’s getting to a point now where a lot of teachers I know have given up using anything like Facebook “just in case.” This can either be seen as sensible, by not allowing any risks to be taken in the first place; or as a shame, because these things are great if used properly; or even as daft, because if you educated yourself in the first place and thought about what you were doing online you wouldn’t really have to worry! What does everyone else think?

As a final thought, and also because we have to put a link in this post (!), Ofcom’s 2012 ‘Adults media use and attitudes’ report is available online. It’s very long and it feels like hard work just browsing through it BUT it does illustrate my point beautifully and shows that adult attitudes to the Internet really is a huge and very real problem today. Just in case anyone didn’t believe me!

On a lighter and more practical note have a look at the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre’s website which provides a massive range of information through videos, lesson plans, activities, etc. for children AND  adults. It will be really useful for our next placement!

 

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