Extending Computing

During this session, we looked at the ways computational thinking can be stimulated through unplugged, plugged and real life examples. We continued to gain an understanding of how this type of thinking does not always require children to use a computer, but when using resources which will engage, motivate and excite children.

During this session my main focus was to explore the Makey Makey kits- something which instantly grabbed my attention! I was fascinated when I first came to see how a row of carrots or play-doh could have an effect on the controls of a computer. It was through observing and discussing the lay out that  I learnt how an electricity flow is maintained through connecting several wires to link the controls on a keyboard, and you together. Brilliant isn’t it?! We used a ready made game produced on scratch (Super Mario) and used play dough to jump and travel across different obstacles- it was so much fun! We created a set of arrow keys with different coloured play-doh and added an extra strip of play-doh to create a space bar. It was intriguing to see how accurate the controls were when touching the play-doh, as I anticipated there to be a slight delay when moving the character on screen. However, the slightest touch to the play-doh and Super Mario reacted instantly.

The Makey Makey kits

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Us exploring the Makey Makey materials

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We then went on to look at how the Makey Makey kit was used to control a musical keyboard online. Bananas were used to represent the different notes on the keyboard, and when touching each banana you could create your own tune- a great Music link!

I also saw another group use the kit to create a dance mat when playing a simple game online which requires you to click on the lit up spotlight. By folding tin foil into 4 squares and placing them on the floor, they were able to connect the wires to each sheet of foil and get dancing. This, again, proved to be surprisingly accurate when stepping onto the foil and definitely looked like a lot of fun.

From using the Makey Makey kits we can understand how cross curricular this resource is with links to music and PE, whilst also developing many other skills such as co-ordination. I am fascinated to see how simple computer applications (controlled by the click of a mouse and arrow keys )and perhaps suited for lower key stage 1, can become fun and exciting by the adaptation of controls and resources. This resource can be used to introduce children into programming and the controls of a game/application; but can also be used with upper key stage 2 when creating their own scratch game and asking others to play it through various controls of the makey makey kits!

Another resource which was explored by my group was Lego WeDo. This consists of various lego pieces which allow you to construct various objects, e.g. birds and cars. By plugging the attached USB into the computer it gives you clear instructions that guide you through the creation of your lego model. It also provides you with information to ensure the lego sensors are in the right place to ensure accurate movement of the lego. I feel this would be an excellent tool for children in ks2, and will again, spark interest for those who enjoy constructing and being more tactile with their learning. 

Beginning Computing at Key Stage 2

In this session, we explored the ways Computing can be effective when teaching key stage 2 children across the curriculum. We looked at activities which were more complex than those looked at last week for key stage 1, examining programming which uses higher order thinking skills.

In this session we looked at Scratch, a programme we looked at last year. It allows you to select different instructions which programme a sprite- a small character. The initial focus of the session was to look, in detail, at how you could use and adapt other people’s ideas to form your own story or game. Using the Scratch starter projects, we were to make changes to the script such as the sprites, colours, sound, background and speed in order to adapt the project and make it unique. Using these with children, you could ask them to explain the process of what is happening throughout the project and pinpoint which code links to which movement. sound and so on. This develops children’s understanding of the process of  scratch.

However, last year I struggled to navigate the programme and had not achieved what I had planned to because of my difficulties. Therefore, I decided to go back to basics and learn how to use the programme using the Getting Started Guide. From this, I followed step by step instructions on how to add sounds, text and create basic movements which I found extremely easy to follow! Even from creating this simple scratch project, I feel increasingly confident on using the programme than I did last year and even feel this booklet would be an effective resource to use initially with children in learning how to use scratch.
Take a look at it below at how simple the coding is in order to produce sound, speech, a background and make my sprite move!

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My final project:

After building my confidence with the starter project, I wanted to review other students’ work to see how they adapted and produced more complexed programming in order to produce engaging games and so on.

One project which I found effective was Katherine’s, a maze game developed in order to make it more complex for children. You would have the option to develop this game by adding extra levels, adjusting the shape of the maze and the size of the balls. This is a great activity to maintains children’s interest in programming, where they can alter and develop codes for a similar game for people to play! If children can alter and develop specific points of a created scratch project, it also demonstrates a strong understanding. Altering projects is also an excellent way to discover the many different ways you can differentiate activities for key stage 2- even adapting them for key stage 1.

Although scratch is something which I do not feel highly skilled with, it is something which really fascinates me. To see some really advanced scratch projects motivates me to develop my skills further. I plan to develop my existing scratch project by creating a simple game for children, altering movement across the screen through the arrow keys on the key board.

Key Stage 1 Programming

This session we focused on the ways programming can be adapted to fit in with key stage 1 of the primary curriculum. It was interesting to see how computing can be used in a way which is tactile and physical to initially engage children’s interest in programming. This can then be developed into more abstract material, based on a computer or iPad. It was fascinating to see how computational concepts can be embedded into the learning environment without actually needing technology!

There are many ways computational thinking is used in the classroom by teachers on a day-to- day basis. Children follow clear instructions from their teachers every day, and by introducing games such as Simon Says, we can see how the use of commands and instruction are used to develop computational skills. Verbal instruction games can be a fun introduction into computing and can certainly make it fun and exciting for children.

We decided to focus on exploring Bee-bots-something which I discovered to be an excellent resource! Using a colourful, gridded map to place bee-bots on, you can programme a bee-bot to move left, right, backwards and forwards. We gave the bee-bot lots of different instructions and it proved to be a very reliable tool, reacting to each direction accurately. What I particularly like about this resource is how cross-curricular it can be. I would love to introduce this into a Geography or Maths lesson, looking at maps and following/deciding on co-ordinates on a grid. Children could even create their own mat for the bee-bot, creating their own computational instruction for others to try out.

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Playing with the bee-bots

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We then looked at the bee-bots app. This game continues to develop children’s directional language, as they move the bee to meet the flower over a colourful background. Both bee-bots activities, prove to be an excellent tool when supporting various learning styles, and when catering for the needs of EAL children through the use of communication, as well as SEN children who may make more progress through more visual, tactile learning. Although this may be seen by some to be a very simple tool, it can be so easily adapted to create an inclusive and relevant learning environment across the curriculum!

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The bee bots app

Exploring Beyond the Classroom!

During this session we looked at ways in which computing applications can be used to enhance learning outside of the classroom environment- whilst also discovering how we can enhance the classroom environment through applications used outside!  There are so many tools available which allow us to be creative and enhance children’s knowledge across the curriculum.

One app which initially struck my interest was the QR Code Reader. This is something which I was already familiar with before the session, having downloaded it on my iPhone. I had used it occasionally, scanning codes on products I had bought in order to find out more information. However, I came to discover how diverse this app was and was intrigued to find out how this could be used and adapted for children’s learning.
After experimenting with the app, it was exciting to see the range of things you could do by creating your own QR code, in order to engage children with a topic or lesson in the classroom. Take a look here to look at some fantastic ideas into how you could use QR codes across the curriculum in order to engage, inspire and interest children.
I also found it fascinating to see how QR codes are being used at the National Museum of Scotland, where QR codes are presented next to models and materials in order to present visitors with more information about their work. From the how we can see how QR codes are being used in all sorts of environments to engage, not only children, but adults too! Click here to have a look.

The main focus of this session was experimenting with green screening. We used an app called TouchCast to create a video of ourselves in front of a green wall. The initial difficulty we had was creating a green wall which matched the same colour to the floor. Without this, the video/background on the app would appear patchy and was therefore hard to make out. When using this in schools, teachers may have the same difficulty. However, reflecting back, I feel in order for this to be effective would be to purchase a large green sheet which could easily be draped over both the wall and the floor in the classroom.
When creating the video we also discovered an issue with the sound, where our voices or any other sound being made were not being recorded. We tried to find out what the problem was but unfortunately we couldn’t and assumed it was perhaps a fault with the application on that particular iPad, as it seemed to work when trying it with another.

On the other hand, the app was easy to navigate and the background themes available make it very exciting-especially for children! The space themes available, which particularly caught my interest, would be excellent to use in a science lesson, and a good opportunity to link with English through drama and role play.

Take a look at our Doctor Who themed video below!

Image and Animation

The aim of this session was to create a digital resource which can be used with children in the classroom across the curriculum. When exploring a range of programmes, it is clear to see how image and animation is a flexible way to support both the teaching and learning of all children.

Image and animation is something which teachers use regularly in the classroom, across the curriculum and which children come across often, perhaps not always realising they are coming across it! Here is just a few examples of how images are used in the classroom:

  • Around the classroom: images are used on the walls and on displays to create a stimulating learning environment
  • In History: we display and manipulate images to investigate different times and events of the past
  • In Geography: when examining particular areas of the country, maps and photos of natural disasters to engage and develop children’s understanding
  • In Art: we use images to portray an Artist’s piece of work and to recreate our own piece of art
  • In Science: We use images to record and represent findings done from research or experiments

From this we can see the relevance and need  to incorporate this aspect of ICT in all curriculum areas to engage children.

In last week’s session, I focused slightly more on the applications which are available on iPads, so it was interesting to alter my focus to programmes available on the internet and see how these compare.
During the session, I looked at a web tool called PhotoPeach. This, similarly to Animoto, allows you to create a video of images which represent a particular topic or idea. This tool is excellent in terms of personalisation, where you can import images from google, or images taken by yourself. You can add text to each picture, where the programme also provides a quiz option, asking you to click on the ‘right answer’ chosen by you when creating the video. With these aspects to the programme, alongside the option to import music throughout your movie, it allows us to differentiate each video/clip but also make it suitable to any subject across the curriculum. Take a look at the video I created below. Focusing on Art within the curriculum, I used pictures and paintings by various artists to engage children with art work and to encourage children to look at the various drawing patterns presented and to compare and contrast these throughout the video. Overall, this was an extremely easy resource to use and again, allows us to portray parts of a topic in a more visual, engaging way.

Another web tool which I looked at during the session was Prezi, a programme which allows you to create presentations. I instantly took a liking to this programme, as I personally feel that many teachers, including myself, are limited to using Microsoft PowerPoint and do not always venture out to other programmes which allow us to represent information. Although PowerPoint is an extremely useful tool to use on Interactive Whiteboards, it can be fairly complex to use, particularly when trying to incorporate videos and music. Prezi, however, is easy to navigate and is suitable for both teachers and children to use. Definitely another resource I look forward to using with children!

Overall, it has been interesting for me to look into this area of image and animation, particularly when comparing this with what I focused on last year- MonkeyJam, a programme used to create animation. From this session, it has been beneficial for me to explore the many different ways images can be manipulated to provide an enticing learning environment for children. I look forward to using some of these tools on my 2a placement, particularly using PhotoPeach to document a school’s event or school trip!

Media in Computing

Our first computing session of the year involved us looking into the many different iPad and internet applications which provide us with opportunities to explore and manipulate a range of media to use in schools with children.

One app I looked at was Popplet, a tool which allows users to visualize ideas using many organizational layouts such as timelines and thought showers. Again, this is an app can be adapted in the primary classroom. When experimenting with this app, I noticed how easy it is to use for teachers to represent an idea or topic in a more visual way, continuing to support the needs of children who learn best visually. This app can also be easily differentiated, so that perhaps pictures and simple vocabulary can dominate the presentation. Children can also use this app to represent findings, experiments or to evaluate what they have learnt in a particular subject. This tool is definitely fun and engaging for children!

Another app which me, Katherine and Sarah focused on in the session was an app called VideoScribe. This app allows you to create a video which  draws images and writes words to represent your particular idea or topic. This type of video particularly caught my interest, as I have not seen an app which virtually writes and draws pictures and words from scratch- it would be particularly engaging for children to see how it comes together!
When using the app, we decided to focus on R.E, using images and writing to represent a range of Christian Festivals. Although the app seemed fairly easy to navigate, the pictures presented on the app did seem fairly limiting. Similarly to Storybird, (a website which I explored last year) the range of art work provided did not seem to support the words/story as effectively as we’d hoped. For example, a biscuit which represented the festival ‘Harvest’ does not normally strike an indication to this type of festival, however, the writing that follows with the pictures does support the theme and would help children to make links between the pictures and the words. This app could be used throughout a particular topic and the material available does allow teachers to use it across the curriculum. One way I would be interested in using it is at the end of a topic to consolidate knowledge. Using pictures and writing which only represent clues, the app could be used as a guessing game to assess how much the children have learnt about the topic. With this, children could also represent their knowledge of a topic by creating a video themselves, which would particularly support those children who feel less confident in drawing and writing.
See below our video!

Moving onto internet applications which can be explored on a computer, I continued to see a range of software which promote an interesting background to digital literacy and media. One website I found particularly interesting was Little Bird Tales, which is a story making website containing material which can be much more effective for children, compared with the story making software I looked at last year. This programme allows you to create your own artwork through drawing, recording yourself on the screen whilst combining sound of your voice through a microphone. This seems to be a programme which can be suited to children across the whole primary age range, providing children with the opportunity to personalise their story and become satisfied with providing pictures, recordings and sounds which they have created.

To conclude, it was interesting to explore the range of applications available both on the interenet and on iPads in our first session of the year. It was clear to see the range of material available to both teachers and children in order to stimulate learning. From  book making to a range of iMovie software which allows us to edit and create digital media, we can see how flexible these apps are in terms of providing opportunities for us to adapt and ‘layer’ materials to suit a range of subjects in the curriculum. For example, see below the video created by other students in which they used their own photos from PuppetPals to create a film in iMovie to retell the Hairy Maclary story. This is an excellent resource, where students have used these applications in a completely different way to myself, combining two apps together which shape the story in a more creative and visual light.

RE Session Six: Assessing RE and Reviewing Planning

In this session, we focused on the possible disadvantages we, as teachers may be faced with when assessing children’s work in RE.

In my opinion, I feel that RE is particularly difficult to assess, as I do not feel there is enough guidance or support in how to assess and what to assess against. Because RE is not a subject included in the National Curriculum, its importance can easily go unjustified and this may be a reason why teachers may struggle to assess whether their children are making progress in the subject. Reflecting and reviewing back on my 1B placement, I looked at a range of work produced by the children based on any topics in RE. From this, I could see the potential RE has to enable children to be spiritually reflective and creative, produce which is so personal and unique to them. I feel this should therefore be celebrated. One way I feel this issue with assessing could be resolved is for teachers to meet and compare and discuss the work produced by children. This allows teachers to discuss and consider what is expected of these children, and set personal targets as to how improve children’s understanding through their teaching strategies.

On the other hand, assessing children’s work does not always mean marking, there are many other ways we can assess children throughout our teaching of RE:

  • Speaking and listening
  • Discussion
  • Questions and answers
  • Drawings
  • Group work
  • Story telling
  • Role play
  • Hot seating

plan teach assess

These ways of assessing are definitely some interesting and exciting ways to gain an insight into children’s understanding of religion!

Later in the session, we looked at how teachers can assess which level descriptor is best fit to the pupil and their work. We learnt how this information should be gathered over a period of time in order to gain rich, reliable information.

We also looked at different pieces of children’s work and had a go at levelling some of our own. By looking at the written description and levels given on some examples, we could see the justification as to why that particular child’s work had been given that level.

This session has definitely developed my confidence in assessing children’s work in RE, and, although still a daunting aspect, I definitely want to develop my experience in teaching and assessing RE on my 2A placement.

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A ladder of key skills for assessing RE: from APP Assessment Guidelines in RE

RE Session Five: Visits, Visitors and Pedagogical Principles

During this session we explored the ways visits and visitors can be used to support children’s learning.

Here are just some of the reasons we should encourage educational trips for children as well as educational visitors:

  • They build positive attitudes
  • They are interesting and active
  • Develop children’s subject knowledge through listening to an expertise in a particular faith
  • Promotes collaborative working in the community
  • They build on preparatory work

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However, there are also some potential limitations to having visits and visitors, these include:

  • No control over the speech of pupils when listening to visitors
  • A visitor may preach a religion to children, rather than teaching it.
  • The educational visit, led perhaps by an organisation, may not facilitate the learning of the children as expected.

It is our job as teachers to overcome these barriers so that children have the best opportunities to extend their learning in RE.

http://www.reonline.org.uk/specials/places-of-worship/home_1.htm

http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20090608182316/standards.dfes.gov.uk/schemes2/religion/rel2d/

The two websites above provide teachers with advice and support on what to consider when planning an educational visit in RE, thinking about resources, activities, questions and students’ final piece of work. These are brilliant tools for teachers to look at in order to combat the potential anxieties and barriers which teachers may face when planning an educational visit or visitor.

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After a lot of discussion, reflection and through browsing the supportive websites provided above, it is clear to see the importance of the teacher’s guidance and preparation around these visits and visitors. Here are some key aspects I feel teachers need to consider in order for a visit to be successful:

Children must also be prepared:
Children must also be prepared for visitors. Teachers must help children prepare questions prior to the visit, so that children can move forward in their learning and address any misconceptions or misunderstandings which they may have. 

Meet the visitor/visit the venue:
It is so important for teachers to arrange to meet a visitor prior to the visit.  With this, teachers will be able to discuss what the aims of the visit are and decide on whether this is suitable for the children and the topic they are covering.
It is equally important for teachers, where possible, to visit a venue before taking the children on a visit. The teacher needs to know that the venue is suitable for the children’s learning. If a visit is not possible for teachers due to time/travel, virtual tours provided on websites are a really useful way to gain an insight into the venue.

Risk Assessments:
A risk assessment must be carried about before any educational visit can take place. It is extremely important that teachers remain professional and consider the risk to children’s safety at all times. With this, children can engage with the learning opportunities provided in a safe and comfortable environment.

Click here to see a fantastic article I came across on-line which supports the need for educational visits and visitors in school. I found this website particularly effective in providing teachers with criteria for what makes an effective learning environment for children. It also alliterates the need for reflective discussion after the visit in order to consolidate learning for children.

 

RE Session Four: Using ICT in RE

During this session, we discussed the role of ICT within RE and how these subjects can be incorporated in order to achieve the many benefits it holds. Take a look below at some of the key aspects we discussed during the session:

  • It has the potential to cater for the different learning styles and needs in the classroom
  • Enables learners to collaborate with peers and partner schools
  • Allows teachers to assess and record pupil progress electronically
  • Enhances communication between teachers and parents through email and a learning platform
  • For teachers to access and share information in order to develop personal knowledge of RE

We were then given iPad’s to explore various different websites which  provide beneficial resources for teachers to use in their teaching of RE.

Click here to look at an excellent website which we discovered through browsing the internet. It provides us with colourful pictures which enable us to see different places of worship. I feel it is an excellent, diverse tool to use in the classroom as it covers Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism and Sikhism and gives us an insight into each religion and the way that this religion practices its worship. While this website alone is not particularly engaging for children, this would be an effective tool to use alongside a visit as it confirms knowledge for children with its factual information provided.

After researching further, I came across some very useful websites, see below!

http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/1jJLdy/www.rejesus.co.uk/expressions/faces_jesus/index.html

This website is particularly useful when exploring children’s artwork in relation to different religions. The colourful art work provided allows children to engage with Art alongside RE, studying drawing patterns, materials and the use of colour in order to portray a particular religious message- a creative way to get children to be reflective! This is able to, again, suit the needs and abilities of all children and provides children with a variety of opportunities to capture their thoughts and ideas, whether it be through discussing and studying the art work provided or through creating their own art piece!

Here is another excellent and very useful website which allows us to continue to explore art work in RE:

http://www.natre.org.uk/spiritedarts/art11/index.php

http://request.org.uk/ is  a site which is great for providing in depth information on Christianity. The range of photos, videos and discussion boards allows both teachers and children to engage with the subject on a more personal level. For example, the page titled ‘Issues Christians Face’ is an excellent way to involve children in the journey many Christians may follow when the practice that religion. This covers  issues such as marriage and divorce which many children may experience, despite their religion, and would therefore create strong links with PSHE. Although this website is limited to focusing on one religion, it’s coverage across many different aspects of the religion make it a valuable resource!

I also looked into several websites which children could use and visit independently as part of a task. One website I looked at is called WebQuest. This is an effective tool to use in the classroom as it encourages collaborative working by completing group work activities. The format consist of 5 basic elements: an introduction; task; process; evaluation and conclusion. It can provide children with challenging, chronological activities to complete which allow children to apply their understanding of a particular religion; the lives of children in developing countries and the daily lives of people following a particular religion. This lesson format is exciting and appealing to children, however, it is important for teachers to prepare these activities carefully so that children know what their objectives are and remain on task.

webquest

Looking into various different websites has certainly strengthened my knowledge and confidence into how you can incorporate ICT with RE. Many teachers may initially feel that this is a difficult thing to do, but through browsing the internet it is clear to see the range of information, videos, pictures, and activities there are available.

 

RE Session Three: RE in the Classroom [2]

During this session, we explored the pedagogical principles through practical activities in the classroom, as well as considering the range of creative and challenging learning strategies which many teachers may feel apprehensive about.

While first reflecting on what Active Learning is in RE at the beginning of the session, I came up with several aspects which I feel makes children ‘active learners’:

  • Getting involved and contributing to the task
  • Getting up and moving about!
  • Becoming motivated and inspired through the tasks set

However, at the end of the session, I realised that these are just a few aspects which contribute towards making children active learners, discovering how we can use various resources and teaching strategies to engage children with their learning of RE.

Here are just a few resources which I feel, in particular, have the potential for children to be inspired and engaged with RE:

Cooking:

Cooking is an excellent, cross-curricular way to excite children in any aspect of RE. Through preparing and serving dishes, and of course, tasting the food which children have prepared, children are able to use their senses to smell, taste and touch food which is eaten and prepared in different religions and cultures. Not only is this exciting for children, but we are providing opportunities for all children, particularly those with EAL and SEN, to engage with the subject and celebrate religion  in the classroom!

Festivals:

Celebrating different religious festivals allows children to gain a deeper insight into various religions and the way different beliefs are celebrated. Using Diwali, ‘ the festival of light’ as an example, children are able to view different artefacts associated with this festival, explore various images of lights, fireworks etc which portray the festival. The children can also listen to music and dress in clothing which reflects the celebration of the festival. All of these things allow children to become involved and understand the religion at a deeper level.

Drama:

Using story-telling, hot seating and various drama performances continue to engage children and help give a clear insight into what life is like for example for someone following a particular religion. For example, children may want to use role play to demonstrate how muslims pray; while hot seating might be used to help us to explore information and the thoughts and feelings of those who practise Christianity.

All of these teaching strategies and activities allow children to engage with their senses in order to create an inclusive learning environment for children, suiting to a mixture of learning styles. By incorporating these activities into the teaching of RE, we are also providing excellent opportunities for children to learn and develop their skills across the curriculum.

When coming away from the session and researching further into RE resources and how they are used in schools, it was interesting to see how diverse they can be and how they can be used in so many different ways to enhance children’s learning and engagement with RE. Have a look at some of the of the articles and websites I looked at below.

Jackson et al. (2010) Materials used to teach about world religions in schools in England Warwick: University of Warwick

This study investigated  what materials are being used in schools to teach children about world religions and how these are being using to enhance learning and promote community cohesion.
When reading through this article, it was clear to see that there are both strengths and weaknesses in the type of resources teachers are used and the way that these are made available to children. It was found that, although there are a wide range of educational books which support the teaching of the six principle religions, a lot of the material used in RE lessons is generate by the teachers themselves which many were not specifically produced for RE purposes. This may hinder the focus for children and RE resources used may not always relate specifically to a particular topic or religion.
The article also states that religious artefacts are used particularly in primary schools as tools for concrete learning and to encourage empathy for the children who follow the religion portrayed by the artefact. This highlights how artefacts give children an insight into a religion and allow children who follow different religions to feel included and valued in the learning of RE.
Through reading this article, it has been interesting to gain an insight into how resources are used in schools and what the potential downfalls of using particular resources may be. This article alliterates the importance of how we need to use subject specific resources and portray them in a way which motivate children and celebrate each religion covered equally.

Primary RE with ICT: A pupil’s entitlement to ICT in primary RE (2009)

This document is excellent in terms of highlighting some of the key benefits of incorporating ICT with RE.  See below some key ideas in which ICT is used to enhance the learning of children in RE:

  • It allows pupils to be creative when building investigation skills
  • It develops children’s skills of organising, recording and reporting
  • It enhances the quality of presentations both for the teacher and for the children
  • It allows us to facilitate safe communication with other students and communities

This document also provides us some activity ideas in which we could build on in order to incorporate the subjects- an excellent and helpful document!