Blog 11: Edge of Space

This morning (15.10.12), one day after Felix Baumgartner's inspirational skydive from the edge of space, I realised that I had to capitalise on my class' enthusiastic response to the event, so at 9.05am the plans I had worked so hard on last week went out of the window.

Instead we talked about the sky dive. For those who hadn't seen it we watched it again, discussing it all the time. The children's response was amazing, ranging from giddy to upset.
These responses led to emotion maps, which led to fantastic descriptive poems.

Artwork followed, with the pupils having free choice to represent any part of the mission they wished. This varied from beautiful landscape drawings of the view from the pod, to pictures of Felix on his knees, punching the air. We then combined these images with audio recordings of the poems. We used Sonic Pics on the iPads.

The afternoon consisted of free choice, with some children writing newspaper articles, some writing diary accounts as Felix, some creating DVD cases for the video release of the event, one group shooting a green screen interview with 'Felix' himself. A couple of children used 2animate to produce animations of the dive. One particularly emotional child wrote a persuasive letter from his mother, persuading him not to do it again!

The response, in terms of end product, was excellent. I'll post some tomorrow. Events like this, such as the giant spectacular in Liverpool and the Olympics really captivate the children. It is important to harness this enthusiasm while it is there, not worrying about coming off plans.
Why not try some of these activities, or your own ideas, while its fresh in the pupils' minds.

Here's the video we used:


Blog 10: Being an ICT coordinator

For the first 6 years of my career I was an ICT coordinator by title, but not by role. My chief duties appeared to be fixing printers, checking cables were connected and trying desperately (to little avail) to get others using the limited ICT resources the way I was using them.  

Eventually I moved on to a school which was very well equipped with ICT equipment, and pleasingly, teachers that were not afraid to use it. That is not a slight at the colleagues at my previous school, as we had little available to utilise.  After week one it quickly became very apparent that the emphasis and expectation on me as ICT leader was far greater than I had previously experienced.  Mild panic set in! I felt out of my depth and unsure as to whether or not I deserved my TLR position at school.

A couple of weeks passed, and I was holding my own, but felt that I was ineffective and unsure whether or not what I was doing was right or wrong (despite assurances from a very supportive management team). Then three things happened that changed everything for me:

  1. I attended iThink Therefore iPad at Manchester University.  I have previously blogged about this experience.  It really opened my eyes to the possibility of technology in the classroom and the effectiveness of technology as a administrative, teaching and learning tool.
  2. I was persuaded by @raff31 to attend Teach Meet Bolton 2012 (also previously blogged about). The ideas and innovations that were shared further opened my eyes, and gave me plenty of ideas to take back to school and share.  My SMT also attended, so selling them on the ideas was easy!
  3. I joined Twitter. Without Twitter I would not be doing half the job I am today.  So many great ideas everyday from so many inspirational and HELPFUL people. Thanks to so many colleagues on Twitter I now feel up to date and in control of my responsibilities at school. We now have a Google Apps set up, class blogs with heavy traffic thanks to @100wc, @redgierob and @deputymitchell, and our policies and documentation are consistently up to date.
Now my role comprises a huge number of areas, from curriculum monitoring, ideas gathering and sharing, staff training (I run weekly drop ins, covering may areas from green screening to e safety), parent workshops, budgeting, coordinating resources, overseeing the school blog page, training digital leaders, attending further ideas sharing 'meetings' and much more. A far greater list than my previous school.  My aim now is to act as a mentor to new ICT coordinators, people who are where I was two years ago.

If I could give three pieces of advice it would be:
  1. Join Twitter and network. Collaborate with colleagues.
  2. Look out for Teach Meets and similar near you.
  3. Talk to your colleagues at school. What are their needs?
All in all it has been a very eventful, but enjoyable year and a bit so far, and I am looking forward to what will come in the future (Ofsted inspection excluded).

I would like to take this opportunity to say a thank you to all my colleagues on Twitter that have helped me. Far too many to list, but it all started with @raff31!


Blog 9: Boy Friendly VCOP Gig Posters

I have a number of reluctant boy writers in my class who are heavily into thier music, so I designed these 'Gig' style posters for my interactive display next year. They will look good on a brick wall backing paper.  As we build towards a Big Write, we will populate the posters with words we magpie or come up with ourselves.

Feel free to use and share them.


Blog 8:Using Google Apps and iPads in Big Writing

This week I have been using iPads in my Literacy lessons, planning for writing suspense over two lessons.
The writing task was based around our recent visit to Soplao Caves in Northern Spain. The task was to imagine that you a trapped in the caves, a bit like that episode of Father Ted, but minus Graham Norton.

To start with I created a project using Explain Everything, containing all of the materials for the weeks work.

The children were split into mixed ability pairs using the Team Picker app (saves a lot of time and hassle).

Each pair had an iPad and downloaded the project to Explain Everything using Dropbox.
To begin with we recorded our memories and feelings, sharing our ideas on the Smart board using the Reflection App to mirror our screens.

Once our initial ideas were recorded, we watched a video on You Tube, taking us on a virtual tour of the caves. This stimulated more ideas.

We then looked at an example text, containing all of the elements of suspense. The children identified the elements of suspense, and annotated using the pen tools whilst recording their voices, explaining why they have chosen certain elements. Certain groups had their work shared on the board reinforcing good examples. They then had the rest of the time to plan their writing. The whole class' iPad screens were displayed on the board whilst they planned.

The following day we were ready to write. We decided as a class to do this using Google Apps word processor. Each child made a document and shared it with me. My document list was on the board for the entire lesson, anbling me to display excellent examples throughout.

The children were sat in their pairs with a laptop each, with their iPad in between them. This enabled the childen to access their plans at anythime in the lesson.

I was able to comment both verbally and electronically throughout the lesson.
As a plenary/ peer assessment activity, which was set as a homework task, the children shared their work with their talking partner on Google Apps. Their partner highlighted the elements of suspense with the highlighter tool, adding a constructive comment. I was also able to do the same.

This was our maiden voyage using Google Apps and it was a great success. In terms of motivation and speed of planning for writing, the use of ICT was very effective. As a peer assessment tool it was extremely quick and easy.

I look forward to exploring the other collaborative tools on Google Apps.


Blog 7: Top Trumps!

For some obscure reason I do not know, I recently got a get of Olympic Top Trumps free with a pair of shoes.
I thought about what to do with them before handing them over to my class and asking them what we could use them for (other than playing Top Trumps).  Their ideas were fantastic:

  • Use the stats to make a database about Olympic Legends
  • Create our own Top Trump cards
  • Find out the mean, median and mode of the different stats
  • Use them to create a presentation about Olympic legends
  • Create biographies about Olympic legends using extra research
  • Make a quiz online
So I gave them the choice and their response was amazing. I am now on the lookout for other Top Trump sets to meet the topics in our school.

Not a very technological blog, but I thought I'd share.  What would you use them for?

BTW, here is the photo story Dylan created using one group's own cards.


Blog 6: Assessing ICT Through The Creative Curriculum?

Since the introduction of the creative curriculum at my current school and previous school (last yr) I have been banging my head against a wall when it comes to assessment.

I have a number of questions:
  • If OFSTED came in tomorrow and asked teachers to tell them what level a particular child was working at, could they do so accurately, with evidence to support their judgement?
  • How do we assess to a sub-level now that skills are integrated into the curriculum?
  • Is their any worth in assessing ICT to a formal level?
  • How can I implement a new approach to assessment without overburdening staff?
  • Where do I start?
Answers: Probably not; don't know; yes; proving it is worthwhile and I don't know.

Here is my plan, that I am about to trial with my Y5 class.
To create a baseline assessment of key skills, children will complete level 4 assessment tasks on   2simple 2assess.  I will obviously cross reference these results with my teacher observations and informal assessments.

Using these I intend to group the children into 4 similar ability groups, that will be assessed in an 'APP Style' hopefully minus the stress.

To help me do this I have devised an assessment document/ passport consisting of child friendly 'I can ...' statements, which I will share if successful/ useful (it will no doubt need tweaking/ improving). The document splits ICT into the following areas:

  • Graphics
  • Text
  • Multimedia
  • Databases
  • Websites
  • Communication (including blogging)
  • Control and Modelling
The following sources were extremely useful:

One child from each group will be monitored throughout the year, with each target/ objective being evidenced 3 times before achievement.

The struggle is sub levelling.

I hope I have explained my plan clearly.  As I am at an experimental phase, any feedback/ suggestions/ collaboration will be greatly appreciated.

I'll keep you posted on how I get on!


Blog 5: #tmbolton

I have just returned home from the extremely impressive ESSA Academy in Bolton where I participated in TeachMeet- an gathering of teachers and educators who are keen to share and steal new ideas and innovations.

For an overview of the event please read Simon Haughton's excellent blog.

The venue itself was awe inspiring, totally different to any educational establishment I have ever been in.  Clear walls, green views from most rooms, no smartboards/ projectors, a 4D studio, in which pupils can perform alongside video images, interactive PE rooms and Apple TV in every room.  Why Apple TV?  Apple TV because every staff member is equipped with an iPad and the ability to create exciting and engaging content, iBooks for example.  This means that any staff member can transmit their iPad's image/ content to any of the connected TVs or screens.  (See my earlier blog for ideas on how to use iPads).
(image courtesy of Essaacademy.org)
Not only this, but each pupil is given an iPod touch (something I am keen to provide) so that Internet content is readily available, as are video/ image/ audio recording and other useful apps.  Parents contribute £15 to cover insurance.

It all looks very inspirational and idyllic (for me anyway), but it'd take a brave (and well funded) primary school to embrace this technology to the level it has been embraced at ESSA.

Back to #teachmeet

The format was excellent.  Anyone who wanted to share good practice had exactly 7 minutes to do so.  When the time was up, they were off!  I will definitely try this with my own colleagues at school.

So what will I be trying out?

Hopefully I will be able to try out nearly everything I have seen.  Not just for the sake of it, but because it all had a positive, engaging effect on the pupils and enhanced teaching/ learning.

  • We will be joining in with the 100 Word Challenge (www.100wc.net) thanks to Julia Skinner
  • I look forward to collaborating in real time using www.livewriting.net and cover it live, Cherise Duxbury
  • Will I try learning the ukelele with my class?  Why not!! Thanks to JC Sheffield
  • Pete Rafferty has shared a great idea- technology takeover day- allow kids to bring in their devices from home
  • Thanks to Simon Haughton we have access to a fantastic History Encyclopedia (www.history.parkfield.co.uk) and excellent resources to accompany on his blog
  • I will be trialling Apple TV in my class room next year
Anything I try out will be shared.

There was SO much to take in!  If you can make it, please go next year.  It's the best CPD i've been on in ages, and it was FREE!

Massive thank you to @deputymitchell and @dughall for organising.


Blog 4: Using Moodle in KS2- a cheap alternative to a VLE?

Is Moodle a 'doable' alternative to expensive primary VLEs?  Yes, in my opinion.

Moodle is a free source e-learning platform, which allows users to access all kinds of resources (courses), interact with each other, complete tasks that have been set for them and feedback to tutors.  In principle is sounds very good.

Last year, after viewing a number of VLE demos, including DB Primary and Purple Mash, I was set the challenge of sourcing a free alternative, as neither seemed particularly cost effective to our small school.  I stumbled across Moodle, and it seemed to tick all of the boxes, doing everything DB Primary did at the demo.  Key features are:

  • Individual, secure logins for children and staff
  • Definable roles for admin, staff and pupils
  • Safe peer to peer chatting and messaging service
  • File (any type) uploading and downloading for all users
  • Set up class pages, and pages for other areas of the school (PTA etc.)
  • Create and use quizzes and other activities
  • Staff and children can contribute to a whole school blog
  • Calendar, clearly showing upcoming events
  • A news feed
  • You can integrate other web resources using iframes
  • A lesson planner, allowing you to upload, link and sequence on-line resources
  • And most importantly, it was FREE
Just recapping the features now sounds impressive.

I presented this to my headteacher, who was impressed, so I was given a full day out of class to experiment with themes and set up the site.
Here is the site I set up:  http://www.moodle.kingsmeadowprimary.co.uk

As you can see, it looks ok,

So I trialled it with a small group of Year 6 pupils, and they loved it.  They enjoyed chatting to each other from home, completing activities at home and uploading work.  I then opened it out to the whole class, and they loved it too.

We trialled it with Year 3 pupils, who surprisingly took to it very easily.

Unfortunately it ground to a halt.  This happened for a number of reasons.

  • The formal user interface confused a lot of the children, especially SEN children
  • The rigid structure of a page doesn't allow for much personalisation
  • The speed of the platform when numerous children were using it in school was extremely slow. This ultimately put colleagues off from using it.The username/ password system was too complicated.  passwords must include capital letters, lower case letters, numbers and other characters.  Hard for lower KS2 children to remember.
  • Content- all content needed to be added by yourself, the school.  Overtime this would build up and provide a good bank of quality resources, but the time involved made this difficult.
  • I left the school.
So the Moodle site has been abandoned, which is a shame.  I firmly believe that if I was still at my former school then it'd be going strong (on a better server).

I would like to give it another go, especially if certain aspects are made more child friendly. Also I would improve the server that held the site.  I feel that I got half way there before having to abandon it.   
You may feel that the money you are saving could be better spent elsewhere, however the time it takes to teach yourself how to use it, set it up and then populate it, you may be better off biting the bullet and subscribing to an established platform. 

There are primary schools out there using Moodle successfully. Here are some links:

Also, this company specialises in setting up Moodle Sites for primary schools:


Blog 3: Class Dojo (My Classroom Buddy)

I recently came across www.classdojo.com

For those who may not be familiar, it is an electronic behaviour/ classroom management/ reward system.  Once set up each child in your class with have their very own avatar, and the aim is to gain as many points as possible.  Think sticker/ star chart, but electronic with sound effects.

I have a somewhat lively class, but as soon as they hear someone getting a reward they all want one, trying their best to get one.  I love it.  Simple as that.

Another good feature is that it gives you a details weekly/ monthly/ yearly breakdown of behaviour.  It gives you a percentage based on total rewards/ sanctions.   If my class have a week above 95% then they earn a class star.  If they earn 30 class stars, they earn a pyjama party, a goal they are very keen to reach.  We also do a lucky dip- where the pupil with the most points that week wins a small prize.

Oh yes... it's FREE!  Check it out.


Blog 2: iThink Therefore iPad? 2012

At half 8 this morning I was hoping to leave the annual 'iThink Therefore iPad?' seminars with an extensive list of useful applications that we could install on our iPads in school, thinking that the children will use them here and there.  At half 4 this afternoon I left the annual   'iThink Therefore iPad?' seminars enthused, completely blown away by the innovation in place at some schools and impressed by the obvious benefits these innovations have on the learners.

The use of iPod Touches in upper KS2 was particularly impressive.  In these schools all children in upper KS2 are bought iPod touches, which are then leased to the children, with families contributing towards them on a monthly basis (once an acceptable usage policy has been agreed and signed).  It would be easy to ignorantly write this off as a gimmick, wasting money that could be more efficiently spent elsewhere, however the pros FAR outweigh the cons.

After the 1/ 2 year period of leasing, the iPods become the property of the children, meaning that the money received from leasing can be reinvested in new iPods, allowing the cycle to continue.  If you wanted to sell a 2 year old iPod that had been intensely used, how much would you get?  £80?  At the end of the 2 year period the children are effectively getting 'old technology' for market price.  If the cycle can be established it strikes me as a no-brainer.

Having an iPod readily accessible means children have instant access to dozens of valuable key resources:
  • Camera
  • Video recorder
  • Dictophone
  • Dictionary
  • Calculators
  • Mapping
  • Video editors
  • Atlases
  • eBooks
  • and most importantly, a browser.
The ability for a teacher to instantly beam data to the children, and have them beam it back (free app: Socrative) was impressive, providing interactivity in a more efficient way than hand held feedback devices.  The use of Apple TVs to beam the work instantly to the main board provides learners a new way of interacting within a lesson.

I can instantly see the obvious benefits of using iPads as a teaching tool, and also as an assessment tool.  Collecting APP evidence can be an effort in itself. Not with the iPad.  You now have a notebook that will video the children, record their conversations and take snapshots of their work.  Children can also do this themselves, emailing it directly to the teacher who can verbally annotate the work and email it back to the child.  All beneficial, all easy to do.
There are, however, many potential barriers.  From technical issues such as wireless connectivity, charging, syncing etc.,  to financial barriers.  The main barrier I can personally foresee is convincing the powers that be to take the risk, but now using the ammunition I have seen today I am confident my enthusiasm will enthuse my colleagues.

I could go on and on as I really have not even scratched the surface of how iPads/iPods are being utilised effectively, but I won't.  If you are sceptical I strongly urge you to check out the fantastic work being done by Fairfield Road Primary School,Waltham Leas Primary Acadamy and ESSA.  If you cannot do this, look out for next year's iThink Therefore iPad seminars.  They might just change the way you teach.

Check out www.heppell.net ,  

Blog 1: Vector Magic

Blog 1: Testing VectorMagic

Featuring Alice

This is a test blog for my new blog page.

This image was 'vectorised' from a scanned image that was the size of a stamp, printed in low quality and with a coffee spill on.  

I used vectormagic.com for this.  This package smooths out and fills in gaps in low resolution images.