ICT applications and the application of ICT.

ICT is everywhere, and with the ever increasing availability of ICT, accessing applications is becoming very easy, and this leads to the next problem….WHICH APPLICATION DO I CHOOSE?????

Applications are everywhere, and with the creation of so many apps for the same job, choosing the right application is key…confusing….but key.  Which is the best camera application for your smartphone or tablet, which graphic design software is best for school laptops?  With all these choices it is hardly surprising that ICT coordinators in schools get confused regarding applications and software and always go for the standard RM software.  As much as RM has to be commended on the work it has done for school computing, moving away from RM colour magic is a must for a number of reasons.  Firstly when a child goes home and paint or another easily downloadable art product is downloaded, the children do not know how to use it.  If they get used to the standard products that come with educational computers,  then when they use home computers, the skills they have learnt are not transferable.  It is therefore important for ICT coordinators to use software that is readily available to the children at home.

I know when looking at ICT applications on school computers, there is the promise of children being able to have so much more at their fingertips, however there simply does not seem to be enough considering the amount that is available.  Applications are becoming much cheaper, and in some cases even free to educational institutes.  This is something schools often do not look into, and they should.  There are lots of applications out there and the need to search for them should be done.

I finish with this final point.  Applications come for everything and there are a number of applications for each idea.  So I can understand that selecting the right applications for school is difficult.  It must be remembered though, that access to applications that the children can use at home is important as it allows them to develop skills outside of the classroom and improve ICT away from school.

I’m not a shark nor Klaus, but I know about internet safety.

So….Hello again, it has been a while.  Whilst throughout my PGCE I have thought that the ICT is very helpful, whilst undertaking my placements, keeping up with is has been difficult. I apologise and hope that these three posts certainly make up for my absence.  Quite a while ago know in ICT we learnt about internet safety, and whilst I believe it is incredibly important to promote internet safety, I never really understood how much of an issue it really was.  This however all changed when I embarked upon my second placement.

I was in year 6 for my second placement, and it was not until I heard some of the conversations in my classroom and in the playground, that I realised how much exposure children that young have to social networking sites and the general unprotected internet.  I recall one girl referring to FaceBook as FB and told another girl that she would “FB her the details of what time and where to meet afterschool.”  This really did worry me and I had to burst in an tell her about what I had learnt in ICT.  I mentioned how if her privacy settings are open, then anyone can see this and could easily meet her there and could be very dangerous.  This certainly seemed to shock the girl who I believe had just not really thought of the consequences of her actions, however, if naivety is the problem, this needs to be tackled.

She was only an example of what I had seen on placement, and it frightened me because it was quite a common occurrence between the older children in the school.  I know the school was very conscience about E-Safety, and did provide classes for children where they learnt about the dangers of the web.  This however, should be done very carefully because the internet is a very valuable source.  Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the World Wide Web stated that “the important thing is the diversity available on the Web.”  This I have to agree with, however, for the safety of our future generations, we must guard this diversity and channel it so that the children can use it as a tool, but most importantly a safe tool.

No signal…

In a day and age where people care more about mobile phone signal that knowing what their neighbours names are, I find the article published in the BBC News Education section yesterday very daunting.  Judith Burns wrote the article using statistics from the (ONS) Office of National Statistics, and within it, her point is frightening, they claim that “A third of poorest pupils ‘without internet at home’.”  This figure got me thinking…This is around as the article states, 750,000 children who do not have access to the internet at home which is a substantial amount.  From being in school and recalling the days when I was in primary education, I can recall how important a computer and internet was then from 1995-2002.  Now with more and more schools improving their online presence and using sites such as Moodle to get children to work at home, the internet is a must.

This therefore got me thinking…sometimes when this occurs I get crazy ideas which are only pipe dreams, but they’re always a positive idea to improve.  Not to drop product names especially as I do not work on commission, I have an iPhone 4.  Now I can get internet almost anywhere, if you ask me a question and I do not have the answer, whether we are on a bus, out for a stroll in the middle of the countryside or even in the middle of the English channel, I can find the answer.  Now if my network provider can provide me (slow) but a regular internet connection, why is it so difficult to provide internet to these children.

Now there are a number of ways the government could provide the internet to these children, they could outright pay for their contracts to the countries poorest, but where is the fairness and cost effectiveness in that.  My idea could see every child have access to a computer and internet which would benefit their education incredibly.  Child tax credits are paid to families who have children under the age of 18, an age which would see them leave sixth form/college to maybe go to University or get a job in which they can then buy internet.  The child tax credit is paid to help provide a better life for children and it helps families with shopping, bills and other necessities in raising a child.  In this day however is internet not a necessity?  The government could ensure that each child has access to the internet by giving a £400 bonus to those families who can not buy a computer, but instead of it being in money which can sometimes get misspent, send out a delivery of computers to these families and then cut down their child tax credits but £25 a month which will then pay for the internet without the families having to sort any bills or connection.

It does sound like a very long winded process and very expensive, but by taking the internet charge out of tax credits which is to help the children, the government would be providing the internet to the children which is of a huge benefit to their education.

For those about to rock…We salute you!

A while back we had a very interesting ICT lesson in which I got to play Rock Band.  When I walked into the classroom I saw the drums, guitar and microphone in all their glory and got very excited.  I had no pretense as to what this lesson would entail and how playing this would link into becoming an excellent interactive teacher, needless to say, the thought of playing computer games in an ICT lesson sounded like a lot of fun.

Then, once we had all settled down, (I sat directly next to Rock Band), Gareth started to tell us why there are games in the lesson and what impact and purpose there is for games within primary education.  Prior to this lesson i did not even consider gaming in lessons or within school for that matter, however, once Gareth had explained my eyes were widened and my idea of gaming changed.

Gareth used the following story of Rock Band to state his case, and since this lesson, I am very adamant  that I will use this idea within my teaching career.  There was one school teacher who took the game Rock Band and converted it into a term/half terms amount of work across all subjects.  He initially introduced the game and the children instantly loved it.  They played it, got used to it and soon wanted to play it more.  Once the children were interested and wanted to know more, the teacher bought forward that in groups they will each perform a song in a concert at the end of term to the parents.  In order to do this however there were many things to consider.  It was this which was his link to the other subjects.  In English he used lessons to create advertisement posters, persuasive letters to record companies, personal profiles of rock stars etc.  In maths he got the children to calculate the cost of equipment and the cost of a European tour linking ICT as the research tool.  In music they learned about the music they were playing and in other lessons such as art they designed posters and logos. After they had done all this they invited all the parents in and performed their concert accomplishing the idea of a world dominating tour.

In short this is a brief overview as to what was done in the school and I felt that it was a brilliant idea and wish to do this when I am teaching.  It highlights how there can be gaming within education as long as it is moderated and used with a plan.  I feel that it can be done with a number of games it just takes some creativity to draw out different elements from within a game.  I feel that with the Olympic legacy in place Mario and Sonic at the Olympic games could be used to improve P.E. in schools which from experience is something i feel needs improving.

To conclude, I believe that learning needs to be fun.  It is not helpful to either student or teacher if the lessons are boring and uninteresting.  Both lose the desire to learn and optimum learning does not occur.  In order to tap into the enthusiasm to learn and get the most out of your class learning must be made fun and using games as a bridge into their interests is something in this modern age which needs to be done at some point.

ICT Lesson – Linking my degree into teaching

Firstly, for this title to make any sense it might be worth me throwing some information out there.  I am officially a Historian by discipline.  When writing it, it does seem far more serious and boring than I could ever want to be which is why my enthusiasm, fun and energy is flowing throughout my teaching.  For three years I got to read lots of books about various parts of history ranging from the French Capetian dynasty, to the civil rights battles fought by JFK.  I do enjoy history and I love the discussion and opinions which come so naturally with the subject and the benefits the subject holds for the everyday classroom.  History provided me with a wide range of transferable skills which were not only developed throughout my degree, but firstly learnt at primary school.

I believe history plays a key role in developing children’s analytical, chronological and understanding skills which are transferable to all areas of the national curriculum.  I think there should be a big emphasis upon the subject due to the benefits it holds for so many subjects.  This could be due to a bias of opinion as a history graduate, or an educated opinion based upon its positives.

I do believe that in the current technological age we find ourselves, the age of the history book and previous research methods are slowly disappearing.  During the writing of my final thesis, the main resource I used was my computer.  It would be safe to say that without the use of my laptop my thesis would not exist and this is due to the research and recording that was done on it.  My thesis was “Why did John F. Kennedy introduce the Civil Rights Bill of 1963?”  The research I did for this was primarily from American articles and journals which had it not been for the internet, would not have been accessible to me.

This therefore highlights to me how important ICT is within history in terms of both research and data collection.  For my ICT lesson therefore, I combined my love of history with ICT and created a research lesson which allowed the children to complete a mini profile project.  The aim of the lesson was to work in pairs and research about a specific historical figure which was given to that pair and fill out a personal profile worksheet.  Each pair was given a different historical figure and the pairs were of mixed ability.  I found that the lesson worked very well as the children enjoyed researching about their figure and then reflecting upon this back to the rest of their peers.  The task saw them searching through information to gain the correct information that they needed to complete the worksheet.  I had within the resources accumulated a website for each historical figure which had both all of the information on needed, and that was also appropriate and safe for the children.

The lesson was a complete success with the children working together successfully to complete the task.  I feel that my knowledge of history allowed the lesson to benefit as I could answer questions the children had, I could also explain to them the importance of research and allow them to share my enthusiasm for the subject.

ICT within my first placement.

Upon arriving at the school that would be my place of hiding for the next 20 days I noticed that ICT within the school was something of great importance.  On my first day I was given an introductory tour of the school and noticed that each classroom had a ‘modern’ computer, and not one of the ‘retro’ RM computers I have seen in other schools.  I also saw that every classroom had a Smartboard™ which made me very happy as I had, (as mentioned in previous blogs), just learnt how to use one.  The final stop on my tour in regards to ICT was the ICT suite.  This was a whole room dedicated to the education of ICT, there were 28 computers with broadband internet access and many different computer applications.

I was very impressed with the technology within the school, and after speaking with the head teacher, it was something they had built as a school and still striving to build upon.  I also noticed that within the school, a lot of lessons used the support of ICT.  Whether this was in the form of a powerpoint presentation, or as an interactive game as a lesson starter.  The frequent use of ICT is something I classed as a positive; however something I do firmly believe in is the need to know the limits of ICT.  As a teacher it can be very easy to fall into the simple powerpoint presentation trap, something which I think if used too often can see the software become ineffective as a teaching tool.

Another use of ICT which I found as an excellent way to engage learning was through the use of ‘mathletics’.  This was used as a 45 minute starter at the beginning of every Thursday’s 2 hour slot.  The website incorporates games into learning by allowing the children to play games if they answer questions correctly.  The questions are set by the teacher so they are topical and cover the relevant information.  Another school wide use of ICT was called ‘Zondle’, this was the online hub in which homework can be set and accessed at home.  It was used throughout my placement and was effective at engaging the children in homework.

Inspiring the future Andy Warhol

On Tuesday 9th October I was enlightened and saw the subject of art in a completely different way.  I have always agreed with art within schools as it allows children to be creative and use many different forms to display their ideas.  One topic however within art that has always bugged me is ‘digital art’.  I was always frustrated that someone who can take a photograph, and ultimately just change the original colour into bright, vibrant colours and call it pop art can make so much money.  I feel however that during my art lesson my ideals were changed when there was an aspect to the lesson where in groups we had to create our own digital image using different artistic effects such as pop art or collages.

It was due to this part of the lesson that I am blogging because quite frankly it was the most fun I have had in a lesson for a long while.  Not only did the lesson focus upon the use of ICT in the classroom and within art, it saw us go on an adventure with ICT which would make me look at art and society in a completely different way.

As a group of three including, Paul Stewart, Andy Humphries and I, we decided to take ICT within art on an adventure and use it outside of the classroom.  We thought that for our digital art, we would document our journey to the classroom from the entrance of the university, taking photos with the people that we met along the way.  This I must highlight was a journey which was both fun and educational as it taught all three of us a lot and would teach children a lot too if carried out within school on a differentiated task.

We started our journey at the gates with no images and no one around to even capture this moment, so within 15 seconds we had stumbled upon our first hurdle.  Then we saw a lady who was more than willing to capture the image of us three PGCE students posing with the university welcome sign.  From this moment on we never struggled to capture an image and never met a single person who did not want their image taken or to take a photo.

Not only did this lesson educate me about the incredible use of ICT within art and the versatility of it, but also it taught us of the friendliness of the people around campus, who you otherwise would never even have stopped and talked to.  It was with this that our horizons were broadened and our social skills which were needed to talk to each of the strangers were improved.

The task saw us end up with 42 images of us with complete strangers who were willing to help us, (once we had described it was for a PGCE project and we will be educating the young minds of tomorrow), and we ended up heading back to the classroom full of smiles and achievement.  We then used the 42 images to create three collages, (set in chronological order), mapping our journey from start to finish with the people we met.

This was a great lesson and an activity we enjoyed thoroughly and it is something we thought can be altered to suit young children in the classroom.  Children in groups can map their journey through school and document what each place signifies for them.

As a result of my earlier remarks about getting rich off something so simple and the frustrations it gave, my final thought is that it is in fact a great way to make money, educate and inspire.  People who do this for their career obviously enjoy it as we did creating our collage.  If making money comes as a consequence then I am not surprised so many people do it.  It was a thoroughly enjoyable task and we did it for free and I would again.  I recommend the task for any classroom as it allows ICT to be used in a subject where the more traditional forms of paint and pencils take form and allows the hint of modernity to be embraced by the future generations of Andy Warhol’s

Stop Animation: A fun and simple way to turn your students into Spielberg.

Within our ICT lesson on Monday we learnt about stop animation and the possibilities of using it within the classroom.  We got into group and had to create a short movie using toys, play-dough or any other item with a webcam and a piece of software called ‘Monkey Jam’.  To anyone who would have come into the lesson, they would have seen twenty-four 21+ students playing with toys and having a great laugh at what each other created in what is frankly an amazing work environment.  This however is not the case because we simply were not playing, but creating the next big stop animation movie.

Oh yes, we were aiming for the stars. In stop animation the sky is literally the limit, there is no need for big budgets or expensive props, and even though it takes more time than money, the amount of fun you have whilst doing it makes it an ideal lesson/lessons for schools to undertake.  We found five lego men, one was builder, one was a policeman, another was a Native American… (You see where this is going…).  Anyway we found the lego version of the village people and it would have been rude not to try to create something a little like this…

Now we were working in a group of three, with a combined age of 70 and relatively good ICT skills.  Could we create this…well we did try but it seemed that technology had other plans.  We created what we thought was a really good piece however; the software we used chopped it up and deleted parts and threw the ending into the beginning and the middle at the end.  That being said what we created was ok for a first attempt.

It was a great lesson and I would recommend it to any teacher.  I will be certainly using it in my classroom due to the incredible benefits that this lesson has to offer.  Not only does it promote team work and team creativity.  It requires the individuals to enhance their technological understanding of the use of ICT, introduce them to new forms of media, and can be incredibly cross-curricular.

This is our finish video and I hope you have as much fun watching it as we did creating it.


ICT: The barriers within education

“England’s ICT curriculum has been torn up and rewritten in a bid to bring it up to speed with the changing digital world.” This is something I feel is important and sums up what needs to be done to ensure England stays on top of the technological advancements which are always occurring.  There is one important argument which comes across the minds of many teachers across the country and that is wondering “what can schools do to ensure their provision is best for today’s learners?”

Schools have much to do to ensure their ICT provision is fit for purpose. We first of all need to understand what the biggest barriers were to progress across the ICT curriculum, and how we as teachers and school can do to overcome them.  According to the EdExec article, there are five major points which will ensure that Englands ICT curriculum is up to date and a successful learning tool for students.

1.         Interactive whiteboards as not glorified chalk boards

Use ICT to its fullest, and “not to carry on using tech as simply a flashy, digital version of the same teaching tools schools have used for centuries”.

2.         Leave pupils alone

It has been argued that results can be achieved by encouraging pupils to learn on their own online, could question the use of the teacher. Emma Mulqueeny, co-founder of the Coding for Kids movement, said that while parents and teachers may be wary of what could happen when leaving children to their own devices online, the benefits outweigh the risks. “Often, the solution to the digital renaissance is to close, protect and hide pupils and educators from the digital unknown, but this approach will fail in a digital world,” she said.

3.         Mind the gap

Mary Bousted, general secretary, Association of Teachers and Lecturers, warned schools to be mindful of the “increasing digital divide”. She believes there are still many young people without access to technology or adequate training, which could be to their detriment on school work. “As these young people often come from lower socio-economic groups, the digital divide widens as technology moves on and they’re left behind,”  This inability to work or be familiar with a computer or the technology now available does certainly strike a worry in me due to the incredible benefits to be had.  Every child should have access to the technology and school is great, safe way to do this. I believe that it is fundamental in this era that every child can access it so that they are not at a disadvantage further on in their academic and personal careers.

4.         Teachers and pupils should collaborate

Maggie Philbin, argues that “In a fast moving subject like ICT maybe we should encourage more student/teacher collaborative explorations of topics.”  I find myself not being able to agree more.  I have seen children who in a world surrounded in technology; know more or as much as a particular topic within ICT.  Why not work alongside the children to see where they are at in terms of technological advancements.  This would allow us to improve their knowledge and not frustrate them by doing mind-numbing tasks they already do at home.

5.         Look past the gadgets

Simon Humphreys, wants schools to look past the technology and focus on computer science as an academic subject on a par with other sciences – and teachers must be supported to do this. He called for a balance between this and “the demands for digital literacy and IT”.

The Learning Objective Controversy

The other day whilst reading an article by Philip Beadle I came across I very interesting point about learning objectives within the classroom. I think that this is a great article and agrees with many of the beliefs I feel.  I have been within classrooms and have seen children say “oooooh I have finished the objective, I don’t have anything to do!”  Within the classroom between 9-3:30 there is always something to be done.  By writing the learning objectives onto the board first the children see what is “expected” when really this is what we think they can achieve in the time set.  Why therefore can we not write this and let them work at the speed and finish so more learning can be done?  I understand that by not putting learning objectives up some children may work slower and drag out the exercise because they do not know what we as teachers expect them to do within the lesson, within the same idea however they could be working at a faster pace and get twice as much done.

I feel that a comprimse would work best therefore.  Knowing which of your pupils should be finishing more than the expected general learning objectives it is a definite bonus.  For the lower ability children it is still a good idea but they should be monitored to ensure that they do no fall behind and achieve what is expected of them.

“But why must children know what the objectives are at the beginning of the lesson? Why can’t we ask them to guess what they are going to learn, or tell us what they learned at the end of the lesson? Why can’t it be a surprise?”

If as teachers we ask what they have learnt and for a few lessons they do not understand what we expect, it reflects upon us as teachers.  For some this is a worrying and daunting task which may look badly upon them, but isn’t that a good thing?  If your class have not been learning what you have been expecting you know that you need to change and something needs to improve.

If you do not care about this and the improvement for your students, quite frankly you should not be a teacher in the first place.  Criticism is always a bitter pill to swallow but if it is for the benefits of the majority it is something which needs to be done.

If not providing leaning objectives provides this honest feedback then that has to be a good thing, and if they are learning at the expected level or even higher that is also great.  For me I can not seem to find a negative idea for not providing the lesson objective at the start of the lesson.  As Beadle states, “I dare teachers reading this to try a week where they don’t share lesson objectives with the pupils, and see what difference it makes to their learning. Letters, containing the phrase “sod all”