Not just me

Just a quick post:

One of our primaries, Badger Hill, borrowed a small set of pods (7) for a specific visit around the town where they live. They wanted to then present the information to the local councillors. They were year 3 children with no previous experience of using the devices (well not in school anyway!). I got this short email from the teacher at the weekend:

Pods are fab! we’ve been using them for self and peer assessment in talk for writing in the form of presentations. Children are orally rehearsing informative recount for the local council meeting about the good and bad things they discovered from their research around Brotton. The best three have been chosen to attend the actual council meeting with their suggestions for improvement. Every child will be perfecting their presentation then putting them in writing. Even the shyest children have lost their inhibitions in front of the video. Its really opened my eyes on their potential in daily classroom life.

Sorry for babbling we are just having such a ball!

So that went well then! I think it is a further example of how the devices immediately integrate into a classroom situation and immediately support the key learning outcomes that were being taught anyway. The difference sems to be that the children do more and of better quality, partly because of the motivating factor of using shiny kit and partly because of how it supports the learner to learn.


Eyes on the Horizon

My voice may have given up but at least I’m enthusiastic!
I had my second session with the Year 3 class at Lockwood Primary. I was met at the door by the ever enthusiastic Headteacher who was full of examples of how he had seen both the class teacher Miss Easby and the teaching assistant Miss Langley doing fabulous work with the children. He described how they had used them for PE to improve balance shapes by taking photos of each other and reviewing their work (when I was a boy only elite athletes got to use photo and video to improve their technique!), and several had made comic books all about themselves as part of the PSCHE sessions. Speaking to the teacher they had also been using them in literacy for writing notes. It goes to show that when teachers understand how the device supports what they already do – then makes it even more effective for learning, then you can very quickly integrate them into a classroom.
So how?

Well this is week 2 of them having the pods on loan, see the Launching from Scratch Category for week 1!

I didn’t want to go in and simply show them apps, that really is not a long term sustainable model and really misses the way that the devices most effectively support learning. What I wanted was to get the children used to using information from one app to support another. So the device acts as the data hoover, bringing in information then becomes the second brain where the ideas can be manipulated, stored for reference or repurposed for an audience (even if just for the teacher to mark). So, we focussed on four key apps, Strip Designer, Epic Citadel, Mental Note and Mail.

The children were first shown how to make a sticker of themselves in Strip Designer. I suggest all users of the app do this so that when it comes to producing a piece of writing they have stickers of themselves ready to insert. What became apparent was that having to come out of the app, go to camera and take a photo of themselves, then go back to the sticker option was a step too far, too soon for many of the class. They didn’t have the mental map to be able to switch from one app to the other and then go back. I was pleased with this in some ways as it showed that it is a key skill to continue to focus on that users need in order to make best use of the device. So, we supported them through that (some of the children got it first time so they became roving teachers) and realised that this was something to continue to focus on.
I then asked the children to visit Epic Citadel. I quickly demonstrated via the projector and let them have a five minute “play”. They were asked to take a screen shot when they found something interesting (I told them I wouldn’t show them how to do the screen shot…whilst showing them how to do it – so they all remembered….if that makes sense!).

Once they had screen shot something they were then asked to go back to Strip Designer and add it to a page, then add the sticker they made previously. It sounds laborious but I will guarantee that the vast majority of children in the classes that I’ve worked with using these apps over the last few¬†years would do it in seconds. In fact, many did, it struck me that some were really starting to feel their way around how one thing could be used in another. This problem is compounded with the loan kit as the children only use the devices for specific purposes in school. Where children take their devices home they learn this “mental map” in their own time – very quickly I find.

Right, we had a picture, with a sticker of themselves on it. I then showed the picture I had screen shot of the statue in the Abbey in Epic Citadel. Using some of the techniques that the brilliant Tim Rylands had used during his work at Normanby last year, I recreated the story of the statue and the people who lived around it. This generated lots of talk. Soooo, I “hoovered” some of that talk into a list of ideas on my pad (that was being projected to the class), which I then emailed to the children. The joy of 22 “pings” around the class meant that the wireless was working and that they could then continue the work themselves. I used Mental Note to make the list as it is my preferred note taking app. It allows easy access to my notes and it is easy to send work to others. I asked the children to open the text I had sent them, select one of the ideas about the statue then copy and paste it into Mental Note. I demonstrated before I let them touch the devices. They were then expected to write a couple of sentences explaining their choice.
I was aiming to develop that skill of using data from one app to support another. As I said, I use Mental Note for playing around with writing – then I can paste it into Strip Designer or whatever when I have edited it to how I want it.

I was really pleased that the children had little difficulty with moving text from their mail into Mental Note, and then emailing it to me to show me! This whole process from start to finish took the morning session. It is about as app intensive as I ever get with the devices as it is specifically aimed at developing those interoperability skills that will become vital across most of the apps and situations that they will meet as learners.

As a flourish I also quickly made a Morfo of the statue (they didn’t know) and played it to them.
The teacher liked the idea and I believe used it this morning as their morning task. She copied me into an email:

To recap:

  • We focussed on interoperability between apps
  • We started to develop moving from one app to another as second nature
  • We learned to screen shot
  • We learned to copy and paste
  • We started to send and receive work (some children started sending their work to each other

On leaving the school, the Headteacher grabbed me to plan when we offer devices for the children on a permanent basis (with some parental contribution).

Recording history

What a fab day with Zetland Primary school.


The Year 6 class have been doing lots of work with the regeneration team here in Redcar and Cleveland and today they were given the opportunity to bury a Time Capsule beneath one of the iconic buildings that the council has been building.
The Hub is a striking new addition to the Redcar seafront and aims to house digital, innovative businesses when it opens next year. The children have been working for several weeks to decide what they will put in the capsule and today was the big day. Alongside dignitaries from the council and the contractors who worked to get the building from concept to reality, the children were very much part of the ceremony. You can hear what they buried and why by using this QR code:

We aimed to use the iPods to record the day. One thing that often happens when children go on school trips is that they use digital cameras to record everything. From experience I find that you end up with sd cards full of photos. What I wanted the children to do today was focus their capturing (or data hoovering as previous readers of this blog will recognise), capturing with purpose if you like. So I briefed the children before we went, they were asked to create a four cell strip design that would give them four photos to take at significant moments. Furthermore they were expected to put a text box on each picture at the time of taking it, something that they could edit when they got back to school. In practice this worked really well and the children actually spent the time when they were waiting to go to the regeneration centre to start adding more detail to their annotation.
So, asking them to focus on the key moments of what they were part of really focussed the work that they produced and gave them an excellent starting point to develop their writing about the event. In a wider sense it is like asking the children to read a text with a particular focus in mind, they were simply reading the situation with a focus in mind. They will be adding their work to their own blog in the next few days and I will link to it then.
Much of their work is also going to be accessed via QR codes that will be dotted around the outside of the building area for the foreseeable future.

Anchors away

Schools are back and I have a few weeks now of supporting the schools with the loan kits to get under way. Two primaries in two days, an iPod per child, one is a Year3 class, one is Year 4.

For those of you starting off with kit for the first time, I’ll just run through how I approached it in terms of supporting the teachers:

Before I give the children any kit I ask them to focus on why they would want to use an iPod/iPad, how will it help them learn? I think starting from this point of via helps them to focus on class use effectively. I also explain to them how the device acts as a data hoover and then becomes their second brain (see previous posts). This approach seems to strike a chord with the classes I have been working with and several have referred to activities that we did in those terms, during the ensuing sessions.

I then let the children “play” with them for about ten minutes with two rules in place:

1. They find out as many things as possible
2. They whisper their findings to children on their table

I do this to get some of the “fiddling” out of the way and it does sam to work quite well. I also establish that when I am talking, unless I says otherwise, I won’t see an iPod in a hand or turned on. This takes some time to get right but pays off over time. I actually make this “deal” in the terms, “I’ll talk less and let you do more if you be very attentive when I do have to stop you”.

I also try to establish that if you have a question about how to do something on an app, the teacher is the LAST person to ask. This works very well and allows the teacher to focus on teaching.

So with loan kit I show the children Doodle Buddy, give them all a number and they draw that number on the screen, save to camera roll, go to the camera roll and set the number as home and lock screen. Today I used a visualised to demonstrate (which was great because when I said “click here” they could all see my big finger hovering over the button) and yesterday I used a direct feed to the projector form the iPad I was using (Apple TV works just as well). I simply had to go over to the board constantly to point to what I was clicking on the pad.

This activity has two roles.
The first is to make sure that is you pick up a pod in that class and turn it on you can immediately see which number it is (where children own their own I get them to write their name). Stickers are also useful but can make the devices look a bit messy (especially after several loans in different schools).
The second is to get the children used to doing something where you use one app to do something in another app. This is really important further down the line where you want to combine graphics, drawings, notes and suchlike in different ways.

I then introduce an app that will help with the hoovering.

Mental Note (see previous posts) is my weapon of choice as a digital notepad. I refuse to tell children how to use it but set them a task that means they have to figure out how to type info, insert pictures from the camera and use a freehand “pen”. Again, this encourages the children to share expertise on what to press – don’t ask me. Of course I quickly review this at the end of their task to ensure they are all up to speed. Today’s class also sent their notes as pdfs to me via email (though we were hampered with the problems that BT are having getting the broadband to work properly in schools). This really is the next step. Yesterday I didn’t get that far with the children but showed the teacher after the session how that worked and how they could create a contact group to send a resource to all the children at once.

The last task I did in both classes was to introduce Strip Design (as your second brain’s way of presenting your hoovering). I do this by showing them how to make a page, add a photo and a speech bubble – all in one go really fast at the front. I then ask them to do one. They never fail. What immediately becomes apparent is the enthusiasm they all have to write something and the wandering about that they all do to share what they are doing and learn more…sound like how you want your classroom to be?

So that is it, about an hour and a half. I will be back in both classes in a couple of weeks to look at what they want next but between now and then I have simply asked them (and the children) to focus on how the device helps them take in, store/retrieve information and repurpose it.

I’ll keep this as a separate category to continue the story as I support them each time.

Just received this from the teacher I worked with yesterday:
“The kids loved using the iPods today, squeebles is already a big favourite…I’ve never seen them so enthusiastic about doing their times tables!”.

Wow, this might catch on…