Friday, 30 July 2010

Google Tools

I have been involved in discussions about the use of Google Tools in the classroom twice in as many days. On the first, with a group of educators, we decided that a set of screen casts showing teachers how to use them would be good,  the second, last night on #ukedchat was where @didactylos said there are already loads of resources out there we just need to find them – so – here goes…

This list is by no means exhaustive – but hopefully these will be some of the most useful for learning the tools and giving ideas how to use them for teachers.  The Google Teacher Academy  resources  - there are some amazing resources here – it is going to take me ages to look through them all, there are so many useful videos and ideas. Also the people that went on the Google Teacher Academy yesterday may start blogging and add their ideas. If so I will try to list them as well.  Google Apps for Education

Get Google apps for your school

Google Apps training centre

Google Docs

Screen Casts and Ideas - a set of five videos, calendar, mail, talk, docs and opening page screencasts includes forms and making a Google website

A whole Google search result

24 Interesting ways to use Google Docs in the Classroom


Sketchup -

Video Tutorials

Self paced tutorials

Primary school projects

Geo Education Google Earth & Google Maps Google maps, Earth, Sky and incorporating Sketchup

Google Earth for educators

Google Maps Mania

25 interesting ways to use Google Earth in the Classroom

Using Google Maps in Education including tutorials



How to use Blogger

Using Blog to integrate Technology in the classroom


Picasa in Education
How can Picasa be used in Education

If anyone knows or more resources that schools really need to enable them to use the Google Tools in the classroom please do add them as comments, or e-mail them to me and I will add them to the post.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Simulations to aid the Modelling Programme of Study

Another post linked to the fact  that we are retaining the 2000 ICT curriculum for the foreseeable future and there are so many resources available, many of which are not used by our teachers and children.  Why would we use computer simulations? See what Marc Prensky said about them in 2007…

“Computer-simulation technology is a way of looking at objects or systems that encourage a learner not only to wonder, "What would happen if . . . ?" but also to try out those alternatives virtually and see the consequences. It is a way for learners to acquire experience about how things and systems in the world behave, without actually touching them. I call it interactive pretending.”

Simulation games suitable for use in schools

Primary Age Range
Run your own lemonade stall - play it on-line
The Great Balloon Race – burn gas to go up or vent it to go down but do not crash!
Lego World Builder
A roller coaster - manage it on-line
Design a room – Victorian, Tudor or modern
Growing plants - grow your own crop and make a profit
A Graphical Modelling exercise for year 5 pupils
A coffee simulation game - a year 3/4 exercise from the Northumberland grid for learning
An Eco House See how much money and carbon dioxide can be saved by running the energy system in a house efficiently.
Building Blocks – recreate models demonstrated or make your own

Foundation Stage
Early years ICT skills from the Northumberland grid for learning
Create a Village Add houses, roadways, water and trees.

Secondary Age Range
Parking a Peugeot – young teens will learn why they need driving lessons :-)
Build a sustainable house
Dinosaur Sim -  Set in the time of the dinosaurs, the task is to raise the baby allosaurus in the hard Jurassic wilderness.
Google Earth Flight Simulator
GoogleMaps Flight Sim
Run an Eco House See how much money and carbon dioxide can be saved by running the energy system in a house efficiently.

Friday, 16 July 2010

#ukedchat & Creativity

The #ukedchat session last night was all about how one can inspire creativity in the classroom. It was a very interesting, exciting event as usual with lots of ideas shared.

Not many seconds into the session people were trying to define creativity.

I quite like this definition

“I define creativity as the act of turning new and imaginative ideas into reality. Creativity involves two processes: thinking, then producing. Innovation is the production or implementation of an idea. If you have ideas, but don't act on them, you are imaginative but not creative.”  Linda Naiman

And this one:

The experience of thinking, reacting, and working in an imaginative and idiosyncratic way which is characterized by a high degree of innovation and originality, divergent thinking, and risk taking.

Roger von Oech - Creative thinking involves imagining familiar things in a new light, digging below the surface to find previously undetected patterns, and finding connections among unrelated phenomena.

From the QCDA we get:
First, they [the characteristics of creativity] always involve thinking or behaving imaginatively. Second, overall this imaginative activity is purposeful: that is, it is directed to achieving an objective. Third, these processes must generate something original. Fourth, the outcome must be of value in relation to the objective.
Creative people are purposeful as well as imaginative. Their imaginative activity is directed at achieving an objective (although this objective may change over time).
Skilled teachers can help pupils tackle questions, solve problems and have ideas that are new to them. This makes pupils' ideas original, the result of genuinely creative behaviour.
Teachers need to help pupils judge the value of what they and others have done through critical evaluation. This means asking questions such as, ‘Does it do the job?’, ‘Is it aesthetically pleasing?’, ‘Is it a valid solution?’, ‘Is it useful?’

I sat having coffee with, and talking to my son and his wife last Saturday whilst their little son got paper and crayons and crayoned a flag (World Cup inspired) on his rectangle of paper. He then went and found a kebab stick and sellotape, he sellotaped the flag to the stick and stuck the flag in the nearest plant! He enjoyed that activity, completed it and we all knew that he was delighted with the outcome. I think that, along with all of the lego creations often found in corners once he has gone, recordings he has made on the recording toys, pictures, play dough creations all demonstrate true creativity. It is natural in small children.

Children will tell the most amazing stories, creating it as they go, they will dance, sing, make up songs and jokes, invent games and more. Why then, as they get older and in school, are we trying to inspire creativity? It does not make any sense, it is there already, it simply needs harnessing, guiding and nurturing. Is there something about school that kills creativity in the young child?

So what does creativity in school look like?

“Sit down, fold your arms and eyes this way…” I remember that as a child, in fact with some teachers it lasted right the way through secondary school… no creativity inducement there, far from it. Chalk and talk! I did have better teachers though - those that instilled a love of music, art, poetry and literature by inspring me to investigate, listen and look for what I like with gentle guidance.

“Choose a topic that you are really interested in, study it and find a way to share what you find out with the rest of the class, I be here if you need me”… great but how many times did that / does that happen?

The National Curriculum - the first prescribed curriculum this country had faced started the real slow down of creativity in primary school, the QCA Schemes of work even more so. Teachers began to lose their creativity and do what they were told hour by hour. In 2003 when Excellence and Enjoyment came along schools were told to take control of the curriculum, make it creative and exciting, but too many teachers had already lost or never acquired the creative style of teaching. Things should have got better over the last seven years, to be fair they have in many places but there are still teachers who “do the QCA”, I have even be aware of one I the last few weeks told to do exactly that to improve the school! (Thanks goodness not one of my schools or the boxing gloves would be out by now.)

So what it a creative curriculum?
Is it
•    One built around acquiring necessary skills through any exciting medium and subject but based on a theme free enough to let pupils take their own route?
•    Giving children challenges and problems to solve, time to reflect, improve, collaborate and investigate whatever they are curious about?
•    Giving them freedom to express themselves in the way they want to including with video, sound files, music and drama?
or a mixture of all three? Or is it something different altogether?

What does a creative curriculum demand from a teacher?

•    Above all confidence in their own ability to teach – even when things seem a little chaotic the children will be learning
•    The confidence to let go and let it happen and know that they are getting it right for their children
•    Enthusiasm – it is no good a teacher wondering in to the classroom disinterested, exhausted or in a bad mood – the children in class, just like children at home reflect the adult’s mood – consequently going in full of enthusiasm and fun will bring its own rewards
•    Commitment – to the children and their learning
•    The ability to value all of the learning processes

About 10 years ago I worked with a class of children on a project about bullying. A couple of the groups wanted to make presentations. They made story boards, PowerPoint presentations that were very good, they gave presentations to the class, and later that month to the visiting teachers at the ICT conference. I made a display of the presentations and started to put the story boards up on the wall. A colleague said “You can’t put those up, they’re crap!” It seemed very sad to me that she did not value the preliminary work showing how they had got the where they had got and just wanted the polished, finished version on display.

I think that more than anything a creative curriculum needs time. It has to be okay to take several days dedicated to a project e.g. to do some D&T in a Tudor’s project where pupils may choose create a Tudor house, plan it, measure the pieces of dowel needed, cut the wood and card carefully, construct it, decorate it, keep a video or photographic diary, write a reflective log about what went well and what could have been improved. There is so much in that simple project, so many life skills, maths, literacy, D&T, historical research, art for the finishing, maybe ICT if CAD used to plan, digital camera were used for the photographs or video log, a word processor was used to write up plan or report etc. There will be opportunities for creativity – planning, constructing, problem solving, recording, presenting, collaboration, in-depth study into Tudor housing. It could be expanded to go wherever the children wanted it to go – Tudor gardens, furniture, clothing, food, music, banquets, religion, Shakespeare, The Globe, theatre, play writing etc. So long as everybody is comfortable with this it is easy in primary school, maybe not so easy in secondary school and that is very sad.

Current access to such a vast range of technology, hardware, handheld technologies, software, web 2.0 resources offer a much bigger and better range of tools to facilitate creativity than pupils have ever had before but complex tools are not essential, an easi-speak mic or digital camera can make a difference!

Best quotes from the #ukedchat: (NB no more that 130 characters allowed, #ukedchat takes up the other ten, I may have added a few letters in for easy reading)

  • Primarypete_: to allow creativity to flourish, you need to allow children to risk and fail with grace
  • Dughall I think we can only have creativity with a high degree of pupil choice, involvement and personalization of the curriculum?
  • Eyebeams: so elicitation using mind mapping, cross curricular, risk taking, just building a list here
  • ChrisFullerisms: not just taking risks but an environment in which errors are accepted and embraced, by erring we often learn more
  • Eyebeams: I think creativity might allow for being receptive to and exploiting serendipity
  • Nellmog: I think applying creativity in the classroom is throwing away the lesson plan when something more relevant happens
  • Didactylos: We are naturally programmed to use play / creativity as our mode of learning.  Schools therefore are often unnatural habitats
  • Natty08: Life doesn’t happen in straight lines so why try and teach it as so – creativity encourages bumps and corners
I started writing YES!! At the end of the statements I feel strongly about – but it got too repetitive :-)

All in all a very interesting session! Follow #ukedchat on Thursday evenings 8 – 9pm BST, to find out more visit:

Sunday, 4 July 2010

The National Curriculum - ICT at KS2

Well it seems that we are stuck with the 2000 version of the National Curriculum so I am revisiting to have a fresh look at how it fits the needs of KS 2 children today. The National Curriculum text is black, digital literacy text green and my text blue!
The ICT Curriculum for KS2 opens with a general statement:

During key stage 2 pupils use a wider range of ICT tools and information sources to support their work in other subjects. They develop their research skills and decide what information is appropriate for their work. They begin to question the plausibility and quality of information. They learn how to amend their work and present it in a way that suits its audience.

Okay – that general statement gives plenty of scope for the newer technologies, much of the research can be done with iPod Touches or mobile phones, games machines can easily support work in other subjects – no problem there.
Thinking of Digital Literacy which is something that we all agree all children need to be taught, and take Becta’s definition of what that it:

The term ‘digital literacy’ relates to:

•    the functional skills of knowing about and using digital technology effectively
•    the ability to analyse and evaluate digital information
•    knowing how to act sensibly, safely and appropriately online
•    understanding how, when, why and with whom to use technology.

Then we can see that that first NC statement gives the scope for the first bullet about Digital Literacy: “knowing about and using digital technology effectively.”

Knowledge, skills and understanding

Finding things out

1.Pupils should be taught:
  1. to talk about what information they need and how they can find and use it [for example, searching the internet or a CD-ROM, using printed material, asking people] 
  2. how to prepare information for development using ICT, including selecting suitable sources, finding information, classifying it and checking it for accuracy [for example, finding information from books or newspapers, creating a class database, classifying by characteristics and purposes, checking the spelling of names is consistent] 
  3. to interpret information, to check it is relevant and reasonable and to think about what might happen if there were any errors or omissions.

The Finding Things Out section reads a bit out of date, mainly due to the reference to CD Roms but gives plenty of scope for making branching data bases, normal data bases and the interrogation of both. This gives opportunities for the higher order thinking skills, questioning, hypothesising, testing the hypothesis, classifying, analysing and interpreting the information. NB the second bullet point in the definition of Digital Literacy is present in this section – see “the ability to analyse and evaluate digital information.” Think about using Word Clouds made with tools such as Wordle to analyse a text, to find key messages from a speech after watching a video recording of a speech. ICT add so much more scope here now than when the statements were written, there was no YouTube bank of videos and Web 2.0 tools that we now take for granted. Think about using Wallwisher or Voicethread to meet the "asking people" bit, the NC is not restricting here but it needs think about a bit more broadly than was intended originally and use other tools as well as database software to enhance it.

Developing ideas and making things happen

2. Pupils should be taught:

1.    how to develop and refine ideas by bringing together, organising and reorganising text, tables, images and sound as appropriate [for example, desktop publishing, multimedia presentations]
2.    how to create, test, improve and refine sequences of instructions to make things happen and to monitor events and respond to them [for example, monitoring changes in temperature, detecting light levels and turning on a light]
3.    to use simulations and explore models in order to answer 'What if ... ?' questions, to investigate and evaluate the effect of changing values and to identify patterns and relationships [for example, simulation software, spreadsheet models].

Developing ideas and making things happen – how many presentations do I see children creating each week?
Statement 1 is covered fairly well in all schools by the use of PowerPoint, brochures, newspapers etc.
Statement 2 relating specifically to control technology is covered well by younger children with bee-bots and various software control simulations, some schools using Lego NXT and robots do it well, but the majority of our school's coverage of this is poor. Many schools seem to have abandoned using Logo - sad, some use Scratch which is fine, Go and Flowol contribute towards coverage but there is still loads of scope here for our schools.Control technology is such a big part of our lives pupils do really need to have some idea of how it works. Data logging is so easy and can be great fun, still many schools shy away from getting data loggers and doing it!
Statement 3 Spreadsheets – some schools do this section well but it is not sound across the board. Computer simulations are improving by the year and there are games galore to introduce to pupils to meet the needs of this statement.

Exchanging and sharing information

3. Pupils should be taught:

1.    how to share and exchange information in a variety of forms, including e-mail [for example, displays, posters, animations, musical compositions]
2.    to be sensitive to the needs of the audience and think carefully about the content and quality when communicating information [for example, work for presentation to other pupils, writing for parents, publishing on the internet].

The examples here are old, but they are only examples, if we replace them with EduGlogster posters, stop motion animations, photostories, podcasts, wikis, blogs, forums and videos with sound track and narration added where appropriate then it would seem more up to date and maybe more exciting. Thinking of the digital literacy aspect 3rd bullet - knowing how to act sensibly, safely and appropriately,  - then knowing how to share and exchange information may take on a slightly expanded meaning, it probably needs the word “safely” added to update it for current times. The last Digital Literacy bullet also understanding how, when, why and with whom to use technology is relevant here as well as in the last section!

Reviewing, modifying and evaluating work as it progresses
4. Pupils should be taught to:

1.    review what they and others have done to help them develop their ideas
2.    describe and talk about the effectiveness of their work with ICT, comparing it with other methods and considering the effect it has on others [for example, the impact made by a desktop-published newsletter or poster]
3.    talk about how they could improve future work.  

Think forums, voicethread, post it type notes added by each other and teachers as well as e-portfolios and showcases (if you have the same learing platform as us).

Breadth of study

5. During the key stage, pupils should be taught the Knowledge, skills and understanding through:

1.    working with a range of information to consider its characteristics and purposes [for example, collecting factual data from the internet and a class survey to compare the findings]
2.    working with others to explore a variety of information sources and ICT tools [for example, searching the internet for information about a different part of the world, designing textile patterns using graphics software, using ICT tools to capture and change sounds]
3.    investigating and comparing the uses of ICT inside and outside school.

There is so much scope here if we think more broadly about the words and add web 2.0 tools and newer software such as wikis, blogs, forums, polls, quizzes and game making resources into the range of software that it was actually designed for that is should pose no restrictions whatsoever on what people want to do in the classroom today. Still the ICT curriculum is not covered well in all schools, some bits of it are done brilliantly, and some are barely looked at!

It does not matter which topic are being covered in a class, ICT can be used to enhance the learning, almost anything imaginable will fit the National Curriculum expectations and the Digital Literacy agenda, as with any subject it just needs a planned structure to cover all aspects and all learning objectives for all children.