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).

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