Posts Tagged ‘Educators’

Aaron was only 10 when he introduced me to WordPress and blogging. It is thanks to him that this blog ever started, so it fills me with joy to be able to blog again about another great achievement of his in the world of technology.

Now that he is 16 and in the midst of his GCSE exams, he has developed his first game for the iPhone/iPod. This was his personal project that he set himself over the Christmas holidays. He was not prompted by his ICT teacher, nor set this as a homework from school, just his own interest in coding and developing something good and rewarding.

You can find his game, which is actually really good and, in my opinion, stands up there with the big viral and highly addictive games like Doodle Jump, Angry Birds and Flappy Birds, here. RFLKTR is a really engaging game that uses mirrors you draw on the screen to guide a laser beam through gaps in the walls it encounters as it travels in space. This really interesting and stimulating feature of the game, which sounds easy, but believe me it is really hard, makes it a really engaging tool for Physics teachers when teaching Reflection of light!

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At the moment the game doesn’t seem to work on the iPad, but I am sure a later release will fix this and I would love to have other features of light that could be used to guide the laser beam across the screen. For example, it would be awesome to have blocks of glass and other materials of different refractive index appearing every now and again so that the player could move them in front of the incoming beam as well as changing their angle, so the beam can be refracted instead of reflected with these special items, etc…

Please shout out about this game and download it, because I believe learners who take their own initiative to create something like this deserve to be recognised for their effort and creativity!

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Topic – Reporting: What do you tell parents and when?

I had the really nice role of moderating the #addcym discussion group on Twitter tonight. If you don’t know what #addcym is, you should try to spare the hour between 8-9 on a Tuesday evening and search for the hash tag #addcym on twitter! To join the discussion keep following the hash tag and, if you want to contribute, simply send a tweet with #addcym somewhere in you 140 letters tweet. In this way, everyone else who is following the discussion can connect with what you are saying! #addcym is the Welsh discussion group for Education and we would love to see more people joining in and sharing their views and experiences with other Educators to form their PLN (Personal Learning Network). Many on #addcym have never met in person, but many others have and connect with each other through a wide range of tools, e.g. Twitter, Emails, TeachMeets, face to face meetings, collaborative projects, etc… So I am not saying that the Twitter hash tag is the only way you can connect with other Educators and create your PLN, but that Twitter is an enabler that could help you getting started and link with a wider community than your department, or school, or LEA, etc… In fact, quite a few people who took part to #addcym tonight have a PLN that stretches beyond Wales and U.K. and are part of a worldwide PLN and for many Twitter was not how these PLNs started.

On #addcym we are trying to discuss about topics that are relevant to Education in Wales, so if you are interested in some of these topics, join in. You can even vote the topic you would like to discuss with the weekly Tweet Poll, that gives you a choice of different topics to choose from.

Sorry for the digression, but I thought you would find it helpful to have a bit of an introduction to the concepts of Twitter, hash tags and #addcym, if you have not use these tools before. But this post is supposed to be about a summary of the #addcym discussion from tonight, so read below to find out what came up!

The main points from the discussion were:

– More personal comments are needed and we should get rid of statements banks, reports software, mail merging, etc… some thought those are useful as long as you spend time personalizing the reports.

– Too often reports are impersonal and full of ticks and comments on academic progress alone, with reference to levels and the curriculum, which for some parents can have little meaning. So, comments on how to help child improve skills and performance would be more helpful for parents, i.e. know how they can support their child.

– Not enough parent involvement in feedback on reports and pupils’ work is not celebrated enough. Some thought we should have more opportunities to send pupils’ work at home so parents can support and encourage their children. Some suggested that blogging and other ways of making pupils’ work available online could be a good way to engage parents. Parents’ who comment on Blog posts from their children’s class Blogs seem to have a positive effect on their child’s motivation! Other forms of sharing pupils’ work online suggested were broadcasting work live, or recorded. Getting pupils to present their work to the parents in a sort of Open Evening was another suggestion!

– Many thought that comments on reports should include social and pastoral aspects of the child’s life in school as well as academic progress and the first should be a responsibility of the classroom teacher and not only the Form Tutor, or the Head of Year (in a Secondary setting).

– A well established and confident School Council can make a real difference and voice their views very well and maturely. That could be used to gain feedback from learners on what they want reports to include. Some would like to see an “Unschoolcouncil”, where learners who are often not given the opportunity to voice their concerns are listened to. Also, feedback from parents should be taken into consideration.

– In Secondary schools often reports are disjointed and teachers from different departments haven’t got much opportunity to discuss the overall progress of a learner (both from a pastoral and academic point).

The above is a fairly poor summary of the many contributions we had tonight and my best attempt at summarizing clusters of tweets in single bullet points. But I think in conclusion we could say that it sounds like more involvement from parents and learners was felt as a need in reporting by many tonight and that less impersonal comments, but real personal knowledge of the child and their achievement would be enough to justify less reports per year, i.e. quality, not quantity is what parents would appreciate more. That applies to written reports, because maintaining a good relationship with parents is also very important! I am sure I have left something out, so if you can think of something else I should have added, please add it as a comment to the Blog post.

I am sooooo pleased to announce that the fantastic online TV show our Yr10 pupils produced last year, the one and only “EM Spectrum Show“, was awarded first prize at the Guardian Classroom Innovation Awards at BETT 2011!

My Yr10 students put together a really creative programme of resources that we used to broadcast live as our “EM Spectrum Show!” on the 17th December 2009. The original plan was to broadcast from the school, but unfortunately our school network filtered the stream from our classroom, so my students and I decided to record their work and broadcast the show live from my house. In many ways this turned out to be a very valuable alternative, because it meant the world to our children to be able to watch the show from their houses and know that leading Educators like, Les Foltos (Director of edLAB Puget Sound Center for Teaching), from across the globe were watching and praising the educational value of their work. Also, the students’ parents could watch the show with their children and become involved and engaged with their learning on a completely new level.
What I like most about this project is that our children chose to use free software for the majority of their work, but still produced a really engaging, creative, rich and fun programme that contained a wealth of really good Science in it! We used mainly free Microsoft software like Photo Story 3, Songsmith, Movie Maker and Community Clips, and we created our very own online TV Channel with Livestream (http://www.livestream.com/croesyphysics). Some people get the impression that to create really innovative and engaging activities for our children they need state of the art equipment and spend large sums of money, but I believe this project proves just the opposite. In fact, all our students had was a laptop between two, or three, and a headset with microphone and still got involved in true active learning!
Winning the Guardian Classroom Innovation Awards is simply amazing, because we know we were against other fantastic projects.
We would like to thank all the people who supported and believed in our project and especially ASUS for their overwhelming generosity, which will allow us to continue to engage even more regularly in projects like this one! In fact, we will now have the really difficult task to choose from their amazing range of great hardware and spend the £7500 award they so kindly offered to support these awards. By sponsoring an initiative like the Guardian Classroom Innovation Awards ASUS has shown that they put innovation and education at the heart of what they do and I am proud to be sponsored by such a company!

After a whole and very intense day at BETT 2011 I am really shuttered, but I am so excited and inspired about the great things I have seen and the great Educators I could network with that I feel compelled to blog about the Thursday at BETT 2011!

The day started off by finding good old friends at the Microsoft stand (you can’t really miss it). Stuart Ball (@innovateach) and Dan Roberts (@chickensaltash) looked fab in their MS blue polo shirts 🙂 and it was hilarious to spot Dan using an iPhone 4 near the stand with his polo (that naughty chicken).

Then, I had the privilege to represent our yr10 pupils at Croesyceiliog School at the ASUS Stand (K29) and present our “EM Spectrum Show” as one of three finalists in the Guardian Classroom Innovation Awards and it would be great if you took 10 seconds of your time at BETT 2011 to vote for us. Just drop a dark blue ball in the long perspex tube at the stand, please! I was getting all excited when two foreign guys walked towards me and asked for a ball. I handed a dark blue ball to them and told them to put it in the tall tube with a smile, but they thanked me for the ball and walked away with it, obviously not understanding what the ball was for 😦 I was at the stand for over an hour and I had a good look at their excellent equipment and I have to say that I was well impressed by two things in particular; their Tablet netbooks (I just loved the portability and how versatile they felt and also the very competitive price) and their laptops. Again I was really impressed by the value for money of these machines! I had a complete tour by Jonathan and he showed me their awesome 3d glasses on their laptops too and their new Android Tablets. It’s well worth spending a few minutes at this impressive stand and seriously considering some of their kits for your pupils.

After lunch I went to get Dan for our joint session at the BrainPOP stand as part of the TeachMeet Takeover. They are great supporters of TeachMeet and they will make a Tim and Moby video to advertise your local TeachMeet events if you ask nicely. They also throw in some nice freebies to give out at your events! By the way have seen their iPhone App? It is awesome and my three little boys absolutely love it (especially Moby nodding when they get the right answer!). My theme was “Why is broadcasting our kids work a confidence booster?” and I am repeating the same talk tomorrow (Friday) at the Scholastic stand at 12.30, still with Dan stealing 7 minutes from me ;-). I hope to see you there! Dan was showing the great stuff Saltash.net (his school) does with Web 2.0 tools, hand held devices, etc… (really worthwhile attending our team TeachMeet Takeover)!

Then, I did spend a few minutes on our NGfL Cymru stand J59 and had a chat which some lovely people that stopped to look at our free resource and took with them our free Thinking Tools CD!

The day ended with a great and inspiring event; the Collabor8 4 Change. Great talks for about an hour and then into tables for 4 x 20 min sessions. I lead one of the tables and was really privileged to meet so many passionate colleagues. The discussions that everyone generated were really thought provoking and enjoyable! I was presenting two sessions. One was the same as the TeachMeet Takeover and the other one was “Why can’t my kids mindmap?”. In both sessions the questions and answers from the Educators on my table really helped me reflect on issues I had not thought about before. The event ended with a really cool video shown by Steve Bunce (@stevebunce) from Vital of his two year old boy playing with an iPad and it was just amazing to see how he could choose and use different apps and get really really excited about it. Steve’s theme was about how quickly technology changes and the possibilities that these changes open up for our children’s development and learning.

I am looking forward to another great day at BETT tomorrow!

At last I have found some time to check Prezi out, and it’s even better when you can use this time to fit it in with your job. As a Field Officer at NGfL Cymru, I am trying to develop resources that give opportunities to learners and educators to explore the latest technology and its applications in sound Learning and Teaching. So, I could not leave Prezi out, especially after all the feedback I had received before I started using it myself! However, I wanted to find a use that was not just different from another way of presenting (which in my opinion is not the point and certainly not what would make Prezi stand above PowerPoint, because we’ll soon have death by Prezi if we are not careful),  but that would have real educational value and that would be an advantage to anyone using Prezi in this way!

To cut a long story short, I was wondering what it would be like to mind map with Prezi, and by mind mapping I mean following the mind mapping rules set up by Tony Buzan (the creator of Mind Mapping himself). One of the greatest advantages of Prezi in drawing mind maps is the ability to embed videos in your Prezi mind maps, something we haven’t seen before (at least I haven’t in other mind mapping software). Also, assigning a path to your mind map allows you to show and share your thought process very clearly. In this way using a Prezi mind maps could become a very effective presentation tool, but also a revision tool for your students who will need less assistance from the author of the mind map, because the sequence of events and areas of focus is decided by the path set by the author themselves! However, if a learner prefers to go at their own pace and stroll around your mind map their way, they can still do this by zooming in and out with the scroll on your mouse. You can also set the Prezi to be public and with the option to be copied by people who bump into them! So, your students could copy your Prezi mind map in their Prezi accounts and edit it to make it more suitable to their learning style, or simply add to it. Why not starting a template Prezi mind map and let the learners complete it? Then, you could share the contributions from different pupils in the class and complete your draft as a collaborative mind map created with each learner’s contributions, which is a very useful and highly effective mind mapping technique!

Click here, or on the image below to see my first Prezi Mind Map on the Kinetic Theory.

I attended my very first TeachMeet in Cheltenham at the Parabola Arts Centre (Cheltenham Ladies’ College) and it was a worthwhile experience. There were not as many teachers as I would have expected/hoped, but it was still a great opportunity to network with like minded educators and to see some great stuff in action.

The meeting kicked off with some lovely demos on 2D and 3D animation from Liz Pratten, Glenfall. What I liked about her presentation was the large amount of kids’ work she showed us. Nice, funny and engaging pieces of work from her pupils… can’t get any better!

Then, @mrjstacey took us through a nice Hystory lesson he made in Prezi. I liked the video hidden inside the photo and the showing off of the depth of zooming in that can be achieved in Prezi. I tried to get my pupils to use Prezi in class, but they found it very heavy and frustrating that they had to wait so long for things to upload, etc. This seemed to be @mrjstacey experience too I think. He showed this lovely Prezi on Chemical Scales too!

Next, was @isaachsenalex showing some fantastic work he did as a cross curricular  project with the Geography department using Macs and photographs taken by the children on school trips. There was a lot of good teaching and learning thinking and practice in the way photos were used by the kids.

To balance out the Apple presence @innovativeteach gave a very quick and snappy 2 min presentation on the many examples of free software available from Microsoft and the Partners in Learning Network. From Deep Zoom Composer to Autocollage, Songsmith, etc… I think most of the audience was literally blown away by these great examples of free educational software. And again the focus was on the pupils, not on the technology.

Then, @atomicjam showed us how Google Reader can be used to keep track of all the blogs and websites you are following. I had used it before, but I got a couple of tips I didn’t know about!

@mrjstacey was up again talking about a really nice blog he uses with his Politics class in WordPress. A great example of how blogging with your class can be a very useful and enriching experience for you students. I liked the was he builds up trust with his classes, e.g. starting from allowing only comments first and slowly handing the writing of the post to the students. I also learnt you can email your posts to your WordPress blog directly!

After the break I was up showing what I did with what I baptised “The Ultimate PowerPoint Macro”. My good friend Mike Ebbsworth (WJEC) gave me this PPT template and he got it from here. So, I showed a version of the Caterpillar learning journey I made using it for some of the resources I am working on at NGfL Cymru. This macro is phenomenal and it does a great deal of stuff, e.g. rotate objects, edit text in slideshow mode, resize objects… You can download it directly from the link below. I also quickly introduces the Stimulating Phyiscs Network and TalkPhysics.org.

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And the @mrjstacey was up again to close the meeting with markup.io and with the thanks, etc. Unfortunately there was no more time for more presentations, but the experience was certainly worth living.

I am looking forward for the TeachMeet in Bristol on the 10th November were I will do a 7 min pitch on “Why is broadcasting your students’ work a confidence booster?” Hope to see you there!

A couple of days ago Microsoft has launched Office Web Apps and this is great news for Educators. In fact, this is a great tool to enhance collaboration in the classroom, at home for collaborative projects that go beyond teaching time and even to collaborate with other classes worldwide!

Not only you can create and edit Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote files directly from the browser, but you can also edit in your desktop where you can use the full functionality of your installed Office packages! And what about those pupils who haven’t got Office 2007 or 2010? It is no longer a problem, because they can edit from the cloud, directly from their skydrive. Basically all they need is to link their existing email (which could be their school email) to a Live ID.

If you thought this was great, keep reading (and watch the video below)  because Office Web Apps also allow you to share your files with whoever you want and multiple users can contribute to the files simultaneously, e.g. edit the same spreadsheet the whole class is using!

I can’t wait to use this great tool with my pupils, but to be more effective with it I have created an Online OneNote Notebook (that anyone with the link can see) to share ideas on how we can use these fantastic tools in Education. However, to make your contribution I have to invite you, so please get involved an ask for an invitation by sending me an email at: aso.ber@ntlworld.com

Don’t miss the chance to share, as it is by sharing that you get a better understanding of how to maximize your effectiveness as a teacher and learner!

Please, share this blog with as many people as possible!

I have always been excited by the amazing potential of Deep Zoom in Education ever since I was given a demonstration by Stuart Ball (Microsoft Innovative Teachers Network, @innovativeteach on Twitter), when he showed me what the Hard Rock Cafe’ did for it’s Memorabilia. I tried to use the Deep Zoom Composer across the network in my School, but it did not work (apparently it conflicts with our RM network, any suggestions?). So, I was apparently stuck, but I wasn’t ready to give up yet and coming to a unit on Reproduction with my Yr 7 class I came up with a simple solution, which proved the inability to use the composer on individual PCs to be a blessing rather than a curse.

The objectives of the project:

–  To develop interdependence through a collaborative project in which all learners had to take into account the needs and objectives of other groups

–  To encourage collaboration between different groups by getting my pupils to develop and peer teach different aspects of Reproduction

–  To enhance Communication Skills through the creative and collaborative use of Deep Zoom, Community Clips and Movie Maker

–  To develop Thinking Skills by developing the project using the TASC Framework

The management of the project:

In the first lesson the groups were introduced to the project and were given an area of Reproduction to develop. All the work undertaken by the groups was their independent work and research and was carried out using the TASC Framework (see the TASC section below). In the second lesson one member of each group could use a PC to research appropriate images and diagrams to use in the whole class Deep Zoom composition, while the other members of the group continued the preparation of their displays and presentations. In the third lesson each group took it in turn to add their pictures to the Deep Zoom composition while the other groups worked on the scripts for their presentations. This was a very important part of the project, because, in composing a whole class Deep Zoom, each group had to take into account the contributions of other groups and make sure that their interventions would not affect negatively the work of others. This approach developed interdependence, creativity, flexibility and adaptability skills, and of course ICT skills, as every learner could use Deep Zoom Composer. In the last lesson each group used the Deep Zoom Composition made by the efforts of the entire class and zoomed in and out the relevant parts while they were explaining their topic to the class. They also recorded their presentations using Community Clips, but at this stage we became aware of a challenge. When they zoomed in or out Community Clips would skip a short bit of the narration, so when we played back the first clip, we realized we needed to pause between each zooming action. That has slowed down the narration a bit and it doesn’t sound as fluent as it could have been, but the results were still very good. The groups’ presentations could then be edited in Movie Maker to minimize the pauses introduced because of the above problem.

The impact on my students:

During the project I could witness a maturity I had not noticed before in my pupils. The class I run the project with behaved in a more responsible way than they had previously done in other projects not involving Reproduction and they were genuinely interested in discovering how their body works. I also noticed much improved behavior compared to the classes I taught Reproduction to in the past and I believe this is due to the collaborative nature of the project and the ownership the learners had not only on the format (as they could choose and collate their own photos in Deep Zoom), but also on the content, as they conducted all the research and produced all the resources they needed themselves (all I gave each group was a topic to develop). This proved to be successful, because many groups found interesting information that the usual text books did not have and that was a curiosity or a concern for some members of the group. In that my pupils were not only consuming knowledge, but became creators of a knowledge that better suited their needs and those of their peers. In addition, retention of these concepts was much higher than in the past and pupils from different groups could recall many aspects of the topics not developed by themselves, or their group.