Don’t Break the Chain!

After “handing in” my blog for assessment as part of my University course in late November, my blog has been in a virtual lockdown for the last few months whilst it was being marked.

Marking was completed about two weeks ago; however I have found it difficult to get back into blogging. I think this is because when you stop doing something it becomes easier to miss a day and then another and then another and eventually months go by without doing what you wanted to do.

This ties in with Jerry Seinfield’s productivity tip “Don’t break the chain”. For this tip all you require is a big wall calendar and a marker pen of your choice. You write at the top of your calendar something you want to achieve (e.g. exercise, read a novel for 30 minutes, practise playing the piano for 30 minutes etc.). When you have achieved your goal you put a big cross over that date. After a few days you have a chain and your goal is to not break it. Brad Issac sums up the power of this simple technique in this blog post stating that ‘the consistent daily action that builds extraordinary outcomes’.

Charlie McDonnell (charlieissocoollike) explains how he uses this concept in this video.


As I go into my final teaching placement I don’t think I’ll be able to blog everyday, but I think my target will be to spend 10 minutes a day planning things to blog and then share a few of these every week.

See you soon!

Inspiring children to create their own content!

In this post I want to reflect on a range of issues explored in our University sessions from this and last year. In an earlier post I discussed the fact that I explored the use of iPads to create films in Year 2. This was done as part of my second year ICT assignment and I will re-synthesis my ideas from this to support this blog post.

The poster gives an example of how ICT can be used to make films to support teaching in History (click the image to download it). The approach incorporated a variety of different apps to help children engage in the filming from conceptualisation through making to releasing to the public. The use of film is pertinent in history because it helps to enhance children’s historical understanding through developing their communication skills.

Due to the immense benefits of film to the History curriculum, the poster does not specify a particular topic. This is to emphasise that it could be used to support work across Key Stage 2. Furthermore, the History national curriculum does not prescribe fixed topics for certain year groups and this means that it would limit the benefits of the poster for teachers if it was restricted to one fictional example (DFEE and QCA, 1999). As such, the poster has been made open-ended to allow teachers to adapt the poster to their own requirements and topic.

The open-ended approach is furthered by the fact that there are no instructions on how to use the apps on the poster. This is because I wanted to encourage teachers to experiment with the apps themselves and come up with their own creative ways to use them, instead of prescribing a set process. Additionally, apps constantly change and this could mean that my instructions could have a limited shelf-life due to a change to how the app is organised.

From creating this blog in ICT sessions this year I have come to see the importance of the final stage of the sequence – publishing it for others to see. I have commented elsewhere about the benefits of sharing resources online and I really think this is an important thing to do.

Undertaking a project such as this requires the teacher to have confidence in the children’s ability to use different types of technology. Green and Hannon (2007) state that developing children’s ability to use these types of technology is vital and that adults need to have more confidence in children’s ability.

This reminds me of a feature film that was written, filmed and produced by a group of sixth-form students. The producer, Nathan Craig, said that the support of the college’s Film Department helped to support the process. This was an out of school project, with a budget bigger than any primary school could provide for filming (although we are talking £3000 here – itself not a vast sum in the film industry).

The film is called “Strings” and you can watch the trailer here:

The film has been nominated for Best Debut at the 20th Raindance Film Festival, for a BIFA in the category “The Raindance Award”  and played at the International Rome Film Festival.

The success of the film can be partially attributed to social networking sites, especially Twitter. The cast and crew tweeted the premiere of the film in the month leading up to its release at the Raindance Film Festival. This helped to contribute to tickets selling out for the screening.

The festival itself benefited from social media within a wider context, with Elliot Grove (Founder and organiser of Raindance) stating that social networking site impressions were reaching about a million daily, with admissions up 33%. For further insight into Raindance you can watch the awards ceremony here:

There are two points that I want to take away from this example and the overall post. Firstly, social networking can be an amazing way to promote ideas with the wider world (of course they only spread if they are good)! Secondly, ICT is a bit like a pen. It takes practise to learn how to use it and is annoying when it breaks. But when it does work the possibilities are as limited as one’s own imagination.

And finally, the success of this film could mark the start of my acting career… 😛

Paper-based references:

DFEE and QCA (1999) The National Curriculum Handbook for Primary Teachers in England. London: HMSO.

Green, H. and Hannon, C. (2007) Their Space: Education for a digital generation. London: Demos.

Hoodless, P. (2008) Teaching History in Primary Schools. Exeter: Learning Matters.

The joys of blogging!

This post aims to serve two purposes. It is partly aimed at meeting the university assignment criteria that this blog was originally set up as part of. This requires proof of “other’s engagement” and I hope this post provides evidence towards this.

But most importantly, this post is to say thank you to everyone who has visited and commented on my blog – I’m glad you have found it useful! Some highlights from outside the blog have included being featured in the ScratchEd Weekly Roundup and being “scooped” as part of someone’s Scoop.it site.

I have also received some great messages on Twitter, alongside being re-tweeted by a whole host of people. This lovely message is one of my favourite:

I think the experience since “going live” has emphasised to me the benefits of blogging. Blogging provides an opportunity to share ideas with the internet and receive comments and feedback from people from all over the world. I can imagine how excited children must feel when someone comments on their blogs and I will definitely comment on different school blogs in the future.

One way that schools can ensure their blogs get the publicity they deserve is through signing up to QuadBlogging.  The QuadBlogging website states that in the last year 100,000 pupils in 40 countries have been involved in the scheme. There is a great video on Youtube that outlines the process: 

Furthermore, my colleague, Lindsay Morris has provided some more insights into Quadblogging on her blog and I suggest you check it out. 

In the spirit of sharing I wanted to finish this post with a song that was recommended by TES SEN on Twitter, who posted a link that contains lots of songs that include Makaton signing. This particular song is being sung by some of the people from Shabang. The TES website states that this could be a great ice-breaker or introductions song, which I think ties in with the theme of this blog update. Plus, I think it’s a really catchy tune that could be used in special or mainstream settings. Enjoy!

Northants BLT meet: Tuesday 23rd October 2012

Today I attended the first meet of the academic year for the Northants BLT (Better Learning using Technologies). It was an interesting event, with the 90 minutes packed full of techy-goodness.

Here are my lucky seven ideas from the event:

Greenscreen iPad app: This looks like a really cool app to use in the classroom. Children can stand in front of a screen and the background is changed to look like different backgrounds. This would be a great app to use across the curriculum. The presenting pair showed it being used with children to recreate the Titanic in history. It could also be used to produce a newsroom in English.

Drama in ICT: This idea isn’t so much about a particular resource to use in ICT, but instead about how ICT lessons can be developed. ICT lessons do not have to involve children staring at computer screens, but can be given a real-life context to give the children’s work a purpose. Value and purpose are two key aspects of creativity and this helps to fully utilise the potential of ICT.

Tagging learning: Tom Barrett gave an interesting presentation about tagging moments of learning, with reference to a school he is working with down south. He stated that the school started to build up the concept of tagging in the classroom before applying it in the ICT suite. This meant that the children manually tagged their work across the curriculum, highlighting what the work relates to with subject specific tags (Mathematics, English), subject detail tags (addition, plants) and emotional tags regarding how the work made the children feel (struggling, happy, excited).

This tied into three reflective questions for the children to consider:

  • Where have I been?
  • Where am I now?
  • Where am I going next?

This was a very interesting presentation, showing how ICT skills can be started outside of the ICT suite and how it can be used as an formative assessment tool.

Twitter in lessons: Another use of ICT as an assessment tool was provided with the suggestion of using Twitter during mini-plenaries, for example by getting the children to summarise their learning so far in the lesson. Differentiation is provided because the higher ability have a word limit (they can’t write reams and reams) and the lower ability are provided with a manageable target to achieve. If school wifi is patchy or technology limited then tweeting could be done manually, for example on mini whiteboards, or maybe children could share their ideas verbally against the clock (for example 15 seconds to share what you have learnt this lesson).

Aurasma lite iPad app: This app provides an insight into the displays of the future! The app uses augmented reality software, which can be used to digitalise displays. The app allows schools to setup their own aurasma channel to store the content they have made and want to display when you point your phone at the content.

iStop motion iPad app: This looks like a great app to use to make stop motion movies. Like all of the resources shown at the meet it could be used across the curriculum. The presenter discussed how a child that struggled in other curriculum areas really enjoyed using this app and helping other people with it – underlining the potential of ICT.

Magic whiteboard paper: This last one isn’t a type of technology, but is still very nifty. Magic whiteboard paper can be used by children across the curriculum to jot down ideas in groups. Its “magical” property means that it can be stuck on the wall without the need for any adhesives, allowing children to easily share ideas with each other.

And there we are, 7 things I discovered at the Northants BLT.

There was also a whole host of stuff related to QR codes, computer programming and the power of the blog, but these will be covered in detail in other posts.

Dyslexic friendly fonts

Out of a class of 30 children, statistics suggest that ‘between one and three’ will have dyslexia (Svensson, 2008, p. 160). Dyslexia is a condition that can be caused by a multiple of different underlying problems and affects children in many different ways, making it difficult to define. The BBC Health website provides a good overview of the condition.

Although the condition presents itself in different ways, there is a consensus that it affects children’s ability to read, with children frequently stating that words appear to be leaping out of the page (Svensson, 2008).

OpenDyslexic is a free font that is designed with weighted bottoms to reinforce the unique shape of different letters, helping to avoid children mixing them up.  It was featured in a recent BBC News article. The word cloud (this time designed in the brilliant Tagxedo) provides a summary of the key words used on the OpenDyslexic homepage.

This video for a similar font called Dyslexie provides some more insight into how these types of font are designed to work.

The use of such fonts has some support. Evans (2001) states that about two-thirds of dyslexics struggle to process and interpret visual information. This is made easier with the use of dyslexic-friendly fonts because the letters are carefully individualised. Furthermore, the font is evenly spaced, which is recommended by the British Dyslexia Association as part of their Dyslexia Style Guide.

Research into the font Dyslexie has suggested that it helps to decrease some types of reading errors; although it doesn’t improve reading speed. The report suggested more research is required to ascertain how effective such fonts are.

Overall, the limited research available into the use of these types of fonts suggests that they could have some benefits to children with dyslexia. As such, it might be worth teachers trialling them in the classroom to see how children respond to their use. They might make a real difference to a child.

References:

Included here are the paper-based references I used in this blogpost.

Evans, J. W. (2001) Dyslexia and Vision. London: Whurr.

Svensson, C. (2008) Dyslexia and Reading. In: Graham, J. and Kelly, A. (eds.) Reading under control: Teaching reading in the primary school. 3rd ed. London: David Fulton.

What is a blog for, anyway?

Blog community

Hughes Syndrome (2012) Blog [online]. Available from: http://www.hughes-syndrome.org/news.htm. [Accessed: 14th October 2012].

For about a year or so I have taken an interest in various different blogs. I have found them an interesting insight into a whole paraphernalia of stuff – topics ranging from ancient history, to technology to rating school dinners. But that’s really as far I’ve gone with considering the idea of blogs. In other words: I’ve been a consumer not a producer.

However, last week this started to change.

You see, this was the week when I started the last series of ICT sessions during my final year studying BA (Hons) Primary Education at the University of Northampton. During our first lesson we were asked to start a blog on our experiences of ICT in education.

My first reaction to this was positive. I found setting up the blog a straightforward process, although I must admit that I tried about sixty different themes for the blog… and hated them all.  I have finally found a theme that I like, although this may change!

With the mechanics completed, I’ve spent the last few days considering what a blog actually does. I watched an interesting TED speech by Mena Trott that really got me thinking. In her speech she asked her audience to:

think about blogs, think about what they are, what you thought of them and then actually do it.

So this is why I am thinking about what a blog actually is. From looking at other people’s blogs I understand that they present information, but I had a feeling that they do more than this. To shed some light on my concerns I decided to look up “blog” in the dictionary. This being an online project, I felt it would be pertinent to use an online dictionary, so I looked up the term on Oxford Dictionary online.

I was presented with the following definition:

A personal website or web page on which an individual records opinions, links to other sites, etc. on a regular basis.

I thought this was a good definition to start with and it reassured me. I’ve written about my opinion before and had people deem it good enough to be published. But I did feel that this definition was missing something.

So I turned to the Collins online dictionary, which provided this definition:

A journal written on-line and accessible to users of the internet.

This definition completed the jigsaw for me. Blogs are not just an individual’s opportunity to put stuff online, but they are a chance for the blogger and readers to share ideas and interact as a journey unfolds.

For some people this journey will be about their experiences as a polar explorer, for others it will involve documenting selling records without being signed to a record label. For me this journey will primarily be about ICT in education, mostly reflecting on issues touched on at University. But, I plan to also bring in other things I’ve found out about education or information from the use of ICT in the wider world that I find interesting.

I hope you enjoy the ride.