Posts Tagged ‘technology’

Anyone who insists technology is disempowering has probably not come across really young learners interacting with it. Today I was reminded about how intuitive, engaging and formative technologies like the iPad really are.

I want to call Nonna!

My 2 year old boy, Martino, felt like talking to Nonna (grandma in Italian). I say talking, but, although he can say quite a few words, he hasn’t learnt to say many sentences yet. What he has learnt to do, and very quickly, is to use an iPad. In fact, he’s so good at it that today he ran in the kitchen, took the iPad Mini and came back to the sofa looking pleased with himself. Then, he turned it on, swiped to access the apps, found FaceTime inside a folder and called my mum from the recent calls. When Matteo (my eldest) heard the ringing sound of FaceTime he asked Martino, if he was calling Nonna. “Sí, Sí!” answered Martino.

IMG_1666Needless to say that this unexpected call made my mum’s day, but what I’ve witnessed today, and many other times since Martino was one and a half, is something that made me think deeply about the power of technology.

Our learners are deeply engaged with technology, they grow surrounded by it and naturally embrace it as part of their learning. I believe it is essential we engage our students with technology to harness this enthusiasm our young people show for it. I heard of many primary and secondary schools that began to use iPads when they noticed their youngest learners kept touching the screen of PCs and laptops the first time they used them. iPads, smartphones and tablets are engaging and an integral part of many learners’ every day routines. They are drawn to them and naturally interact with such devices with great interest and proficiency, so using them in the classroom seems to me to be a logical way to engage children in their learning. This will make schooling more fun, but that should never be the driver for integrating technology in the classroom! iPads and other technologies open ways to redefine pedagogy and learning experiences. They empower learners and teachers, so that students become more independent and creators of knowledge, rather than simply consumers of knowledge. Let’s embrace technology for the right reasons and not thinking that the kit will solve all the teaching and learning challenges in our schools.

There are many ways to use technology creatively and innovatively to enrich our learning environments and much can be learnt from educational blogs such the CollaboratEd.org.uk Blog (@Collaborat_Ed), Neil Atkin’s Blog (@natkin), maybe this Blog you are reading and, one of my favourite, Gavin Smart’s Blog (@GavinSmart).

It’s been a while since my last post, so my fingers are itching now, especially because what I am going to write about had virtually no input from me. My four boys have been completely immersed in Minecraft for quite a few months now. In particular, they love playing together on two iPads and an iPhone, so they can cooperate, send messages to each other and they’ve even made three beds in each of the houses they built, so they can sleep together in any house they find themselves in when it gets dark (and for those who are not familiar with Minecraft you better go to sleep when it gets dark, or zombies and creepers will come to get you).

A self organised geography lesson

One day my six year old invited the other two, four and eight respectively (the two year old can use the iPad very well, but on Minecraft he tends to destroy stuff, so it’s better to leave him out of a creative session 😉 ), to join him in his Olympic Games. So, they set off to build flags for each country (well, just a few actually, but I was pleased they added Italy). They found out what colours the flags for the countries they wanted to add were and made them out of Minecraft blocks. You can see the results below.

Italy

Japan

Japan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A bit of Literacy

Then, they created various games. There was a ring for sword fighting, a hurdle race track and even target shooting. The boys also placed some signs with some basic rules for the games, as you can see below.

IMG_1623

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And finally a bit of numeracy

Now it was time to mark out the difficulty of the target shooting game, so they added some signs to show how far from the target the archers should stand for an easy, medium and hard shooting session. This shows how you can develop “using number and measuring skills” through a video game that kids find incredibly engaging. So engaging, in fact, that they set off to create what became (in my opinion) a great learning journey completely independently. I believe this is a really nice example of a SOLE (Self Organised Learning Environment) that Sugata Mitra talks about and that the nature of the game, the intuitiveness of iPads and the ability to collaborate in real time from different devices facilitated this process many folds.

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The power of technology

I’ve always been fascinated by the way very young learners interact with new technologies, and it was observing my nephew searching the internet when he was ten that prompted me to start this Blog, but I have never seen anything as powerful as an iPad in allowing children to create their own learning journeys. I watch my two year old who can get in and out of the apps he wants, build helicopters in the Lego app and fly them, call my mum with FaceTime (it’s true! It happened several times), etc… Then, I see my four year old who since he was three could create amazing buildings and objects in Minecraft at a speed that makes me feel dizzy, or my six and eight year old boys who use iPads to search for information they are interested in, find video tutorials on YouTube that show them how to create portals in Minecraft that take them to other worlds, etc… and I see so much that I am proud of. But I also see a fantastic tool that empowers them to learn through play. If they can learn things by themselves using these amazing technologies, think about how much more could be done in the classroom with them!

It is undeniable that Apple brought the whole world into the third millenium with a series of innovations that not even visionary film directors like Ridley Scott could have even imagined in a not so distant past when he made Blade Runner. A really creative story that places genetic engineering at the heart of amazing developments that allows to create “replicants” with superhuman powers. I watched the film recently and two things that caught my attention were the time in which it was set, 2019, and the fact that when Harrison Ford is waiting for his noodles he is reading a newspaper. What? A newspaper? In 2019? Yes, we still have newspapers and we might still have them in 2019, but try taking a trip in the London Tube and see how many people read their books, newspapers, or look at their photos on paper! Most likely you will see an array of electronic devices ranging from smartphones, Kindles, iPads and other tablets. So in 2013 we have well surpassed the technology imagined by Scott for 2019, apart for being able to create “replicants” of course 😉

All this was brought to us by Apple and all other attempts to copy Apple’s astounding technology owe the Cupertino team an enormous amount of respect and gratitude, no doubt.

Today, in 2013, only two platforms are seriously competing for the biggest cut of the market “cake”. Apart from Apple and Android, mainly thanks to the beauty and functionality of Apple devices and the ever growing app market for both, no other competitor can seriously pose a threat for these two giants. But is the balance beginning to shift towards one of these two wrestlers? MBA thinks so and they have created this awesome infographics to illustrate the current state of affairs between Android and Apple. There are some interesting figures there and they will surprise some of you, as they surprised me. Enjoy!

ANDROID-MBA

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!

It was a great privilege to be at the Innovative Education Forum at the beginning of this week. It all began with a very inspiring Innovative Teachers Meeting. A very informal gathering for all who wanted to be inspired and make new links, talk about Education with great Educators and indeed join the craved Chicken Karaoke organised by the legendary @chickensaltash (more on this later on). It was nice and rather daunting to open the meeting with my Yr 10 students’ EM Spectrum TV Show and in 10 minutes it was quite difficult to explain the extent of the project, but at least after that I only had to sit back, relax be inspired by so many other great presentations. I was particularly inspired Dawn Hallybone (@dawnhallybone) talking about her Games Based Learning and the nice examples she showed. Really good was also David Mitchell’s presentation (@Deputymitchell) who showed the importance of leaving comments on children’s blog posts! And I have to confess my favourite was Daniel Stucke’s presentation (@mrstucke) on the great work his kids are doing as Digital Leaders. Very inspiring and it reminds me of the Pupils’ Voice project I began in Torfaen a while ago now. There were other great presentations and the evening was really enjoyable and it ended with big cheers and nods of approval when @chickensaltash clucked that he would have led us to a traditional Chinese Karaoke. He said it would take only ten minutes, but it was more like twenty. So, you can imagine our great disappointment when we arrived exhausted at the door and discovered that the place was shut. I could only forgive that Chicken because he eventually took us to an excellent Kebabs take away! But lets move on to the main event, the U.K. Innovative Education Forum 2010.

It started off with an inspirational talk by Michael Furdyk and the launch of the project Shout which invites educators and students to take an active role in global environmental issues. Connect online with experts in the field, share ideas, and collaborate with people around the world committed to solving environmental challenges. This is a really nice opportunity for Educators and Learners to get involved in real and meaningful research and appreciate the importance of collaboration. You can watch Michael Furdyk’s talk on demand on the NGfL Cymru Live Channel.

We then went to our first workshop, which for me was Building games in the Classroom with Kodu. I was particularly interested in this one from the viewpoint of an Institute of Physics Network Coordinator, because I would like to explore the possibility to get children to create virtual worlds to discover the effect of changing physical laws and, therefore, better appreciate the role these laws play in our everyday life! But I have just ideas at this stage and a lot of testing to do before I can build a workshop on it.

My second workshop was with @chickensaltash, by only few known as Dan Roberts, who showed great Web 2.0 tools that can be used in Education. Really nice to see real examples of pupils’ work and I particularly enjoyed the Saltash’s take on mobile devices and social networking. The bottom line is that if we just ban children from using these tools, they will use them  in inappropriate, and potentially dangerous ways, in other environments, but if we educate our pupils in the acceptable and responsible use of these technologies, they will respond and become more mature users of these tools. So, is Saltash.net just making it up and risking their children’s protection? Well, the awards they win for their policies in the use of mobile devices and social networking would suggest the opposite! You can watch this workshop too from the NGfL Cymru Live channel on demand.

My last workshop was with Stuart Ball (@innovativeteach) on Office 2010 and some great features to facilitate learning activities. Of particular value was the demonstration of how OneNote 2010 integrates so beautifully with PowerPoint 2010, with real time polling, collaborative note taking and sharing, etc. Finally, we were shown how Mouse Mischief works and I got to PLAY 🙂 This is a fantastic plug-in for PowerPoint 2007 and 2010 that allows you to connect up to 25 mice to your computer and use PowerPoint as a voting system, multiple choice question generator, and collaborative games and with the ability given to each mouse to draw on some slides!

It was then time for the second Keynote Speaker Prof Sugata Mitra. I had watched his talk on TED, but I have to admit that seeing his passion for Learning and his research live was even more inspiring. I also had the privilege of broadcasting his talk and presentation live and you can see it on demand on the NGfL Cymru Live channel (just after the Q&A session on the video). One of the most intriguing aspects of his talk is his hypothesis that “Education is a self organising system, where learning is an emergent phenomenon”. Prof Mitra will continue his research and actively seek to find hard evidence for this speculation. The data he has already gathered are really encouraging and point to that statement!

And last but not least, the moment that ten people in the conference room were all waiting for. After their hard work and commitment to their children, four of the ten finalists at the UK IEF 2010 were invited to represent Britain’s finest Education at the European Innovative Education Forum that will take place in Moscow in March 2011. And the fantastic 4 are:

Gareth Ritter

Jennifer Blum

Jo Debens

Louise Dorrian

I was overjoyed when I heard that Gareth (@ritzertech) because he is a Welshman and works in Willows High in Cardiff. I first came across him when I did a presentation about NGfL Cymru resources in his school. At the end of the presentation he comes up to me and says: “The stuff you do is really cool! How can I get involved in all this?” I only had to tell him “try the UK IEF 2010!” and in a week he put together an award winning VCT. What will he do in the time he has between now and March? Great job Gareth. Read about his awesome project on his blog http://garethritter.wordpress.com/

Yesterday it was quite strange not to walk in a classroom for my first day of work. After teaching for six years I am seconded for a year to work with National Grid for Learning in Wales (NGfL Cymru) as a Field Officer. I feel excited and refreshed to be part of this valuable and interesting project!

So what is NGfL Cymru and what do we do?

NGfL Cymru is a non-profit organization funded by the Welsh Assembly Government for the development and sharing of teaching and learning resources. Membership is free to any teacher and to download most of our resources you don’t even need to be logged in. Having a membership is useful though, because it gives you access to quicker and easier ways to organise and find the resources and topics you are interested in!

One of the great things about NGfL Cymru is that almost all the resources uploaded are available both in English and Welsh and this makes NGfL Cymru a unique portal for Technology-rich Leaning in Wales. And if you teach in a school in Wales you will be glad to know about our partnership with eChalk. In fact, they have agreed to allow all schools in Wales to use their resources free of charge and without the need of subscribing to anything. So, next time you find yourself in a school in Wales have a look at the resources that are available to you via eChalk, many are very good IWB lessons starters/enders.

Well, my role will mainly be that of Content Developer, which is like a dream come true for me. I will be focussing on Physics and Science, but I am hoping to have the opportunity to coordinate projects from different schools and subjects too… Oh, didn’t you know? If you are teaching in a Welsh school you can apply for an IRF (Innovative Resource Fund) which means that you can submit the proposal for the development of an innovative learning resource and either your school will be paid to release you for the time needed to develop your creative resources, or you could be paid for the work done in your own time. That is how my relationship with NGfL started! I submitted two IRFs and eventually applied for the secondment as Field Officer, and because they were so fed up with my nagging they gave me a job I suppose 😉

Please, have a look at the NGfL Cymru resources and enjoy using them with your classes, because they are there for you!

You can now watch a preview of our Yr 10 EM Spectrum “TV Show” directly from this blog. The section we are showing below is part of the EM Spectrum News Report. If you want to watch the whole show click here.

Please, also take a look at my previous post about this show for more details.

A few weeks ago I introduced the E.M. Spectrum to my yr 10 classes (14-15 years old) by asking them to produce activities that we would broadcast on our very own online “TV” channel http://www.livestream.com/croesyphysics

Needless to say they were very excited by the idea, especially because they were given complete choice on the type of activities they could create, the groups they were working with and even the software they could use. So, we got activities ranging from News Reports and Revision Songs to Documentaries and Comics. The whole process was highly enjoyable for them, to the point that some pupils who normally would not be that interested in the subject and that would find it difficult to focus on the work given became those who were always working very hard at their project and even came back at lunch time several times to make sure they could complete the activity in time to be broadcast.

Our pupils used a range of sources of information to produce their activities. Many used the internet, but most also checked their facts on Science Textbooks and made sure that their content was both relevant to the AQA Specifications (our examination board) and scientifically sound!

As I mentioned above, all groups had complete choice on the software and format they were using. So, some groups used Photo Story 3 to record short documentary-like videos.Photo Story 3 is very easy to use and very intuitive. It basically lets you choose a sequence of photos and record an oral narration on each frame. Other groups used Songsmith to create lovely revision songs. If you are a teacher, you can download Songsmith free by joining the Partners in Learning NetworkSongsmith gives you a choice of musical bases and by singing to the software your voice is recorded and the base is turned into the melody you’ve created. You can then export your song in Movie Maker and add background images, text and effects, like our yr 10 pupils did.

One of the highlights of our show was the News Report created by our pupils using only PowerPoint 2007 and Movie Maker. Michael asked permission to ITV News to use their music and he then produced the most amazing PowerPoint presentation I have ever seen. In this presentation he included the videos created by the other Reporters in Movie Maker and it looked really professional, as well as containing really good Physics. I think the most powerful message we could get from work like this is that we don’t really need to spend thousands of pounds in highly expensive equipment, nor have a state on the art recording studio in our school, because what really makes the difference is the creativity and engagement of our pupils.

Some other groups used Community Clips to record their presentations directly from their computer screen. Community Clips is a very useful free tool from Microsoft Research that lets you record a video of whatever happens on your screen. You can also narrate what’s going on and your voice will be captured by Community Clips. A Good example of use of this software were the instructions made by our pupils on some useful websites for revision, towards the end of our show!

So, how did we broadcast? Well, we used a free software called Procaster that lets you broadcast live directly on your Livestream channel. But the great thing about Procaster, and what makes it stand out from any other free broadcasting tool, is that you can choose to show just your webcam view, your screen, or a lovely 2-D or even 3-D mix of the two. The result looks very professional and the quality and speed of streaming is also pretty impressive for a completely free service. Your Livestream channel is also free and there is the option to let your audience interact with the show and with each other via the chat built in the channel. You can also link the channel to your Facebook and Twitter to maximise advertising possibilities. Our E.M. Spectrum show went live on Thursday 17th December 2009 at 20.30 (U.K. time) but it’s now available on demand in our Croesy Physics Livestream channel. Please, watch it and have fun!

Croesy Physics Livestream Channel

Have you ever used live streaming software, or websites? What was your experience?

We had a very Special Viewer during our live broadcast, Les Foltos, the Director of edLAB
Puget Sound Center for Teaching
who commented: “Dude.  Really great.  Or as you said it, Bringing Physics to Life is Amazing.” Les also asked our pupils: “What is the benefit of sharing your work in this online show?” and this are some of their comments.

Michael: the benefits are that we are in control of our learning and the research that we did to produce the “TV show” allowed us to take everything in and understand all about what we were learning.

Niall: some of the benefits would be the new and great technologies and software and being able to watch the show on the internet.

Jess: the benefits are that your parents can see it and get involved with what you’re doing in school. Also, it was more fun knowing that lots of people can see it!

We were thrilled to receive an email today to tell us myself and three of my Yr12 Students have been invited to BETT to receive our prize for the “Be a Reporter for the day” competition organised by the National Education Network. They competition invited schools to submit a news report about how they are using Technology in Education.  At the time I just started a Revision Club on Google Wave for my Yr12 Students and I knew that was just the right thing to submit… A project on Wave!

We are one of very few schools that uses Google Wave, as it is brand new technology and still quite few people have been invited to it! I got my invite from my brother in law and my Yr12 pupils from Michael (one of our sixth formers) who had some spare invites to give away.

So, how do we use Google Wave for revision? Wave is an incredibly powerful tool for collaborative work. Not only my pupils and I can communicate real time (and I mean real time), but Waves offer you many tools to enhance your experience, like gadgets and bots. And the best thing is that there are already many Developers who are busy writing new gadgets and bots, so things get more exciting everyday.

But what are these gadgets and bots? To any wave you can add various tools. For example, I added a mind mapping gadget (use the URL: http://cactus-wave.appspot.com/net.brucecooper.mindmapgadget.MindMapGadget/net.brucecooper.mindmapgadget.client.MindMapGadget.gadget.xml ) to decide what definitions we wanted to revise. So, each member of the class could contribute and group the definitions they found in their notes and specifications. This was a useful excercise because it helped them revise the different concepts and create links between words, definitions and topics.

Then, I invited the Wikifier bot (wikifier@appspot.com) to our wave, so that my Students could look up those definitions from Wikipedia directly on the wave. This is another powerful feature of Google Wave; you don’t need to leave the Wave to make something happen, as you can get most thing to happen and be stored there!

After that, I asked my Students to compare the definitions from Wikifier with those in their notes, books and the AQA Specifications, which I believe was not only a great way to revise, but also to encourage them to use more than one source of information when studying and researching! At this point, a great suggestion came from Alex (one of our Students). He said he was going to change the colour to green for those definitions he had checked, red for those he thought were wrong and orange when he wasn’t sure. In this way the Wave started to become more and more something owned and developed by the Students rather than directed and managed by me all the time. In fact, Alex’s suggestion became a norm followed by others too. Other suggestions and activities have been included by the Students since and our Revision Wave is now a lot bigger than the one we started with and our Students reported about in their award winning project, and we are getting very excited leading to January 15th when we’ll be at BETT to enjoy the great events and our boys will receive their prize, a brand new laptop each!

I have heard many teachers saying they can’t understand, or see the point of Google Wave, but I can say it is a fantastic tool and a smashing online collaborative environment unlike anything we have seen before. As more and more Developers will join in writing gadgets and bots for Waves, we’ll see a phenomenon that could really change the way communications and collaboration happen in Education.

I got this fantastic online resource from Dan Roberts (@chickensaltash on twitter) who blogged about some fantastic work his pupils did with it! Dan’s blog

So, here is how I used it so far! I got my pupils in yr 10 to split into nine groups and develop a 5W activity on energy resources. Each group was assigned one type of energy resource and the power stations assiciated with it. In the 5W activity they had a pentagon shape with an image in the middle and they had to find information to include in each box to answer the 5 questions starting with W, Who, Where, What, When, Why.

5Ws

 

When they were presenting their work back to the class, I asked each pupil to look at the presentations and post a sticky note on our Wallwisher whenever they spotted an advantage/disadvantage of renewable/non-renewable energy resources, so they were taking shared notes about topics created by other members of the class. I have uploaded the link to the wallwisher I created on our VLE, so they can now use those shared notes for revision!

Here is the link to our Wallwisher on energy resources

Please, comment on this blog and share with us how you use Wallwisher!!!