Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Make Things Do Stuff

Well, it's not too often I get excited about websites but this particular one has certainly got the creative juices flowing yesterday! According to their website, Make Things Do Stuff "aims to mobilise the next generation of digital makers" and will enable people to "make sense of all the resources that are available to them and will help them to navigate a path that will take them from being a digital consumer, to being a digital maker."



The site seems to have the support of Nesta, Nominet Trust and Mozilla. Users can easily find projects around creating animations, building apps, games, physical computing, remixing and mash ups and websites. I was particularly drawn to the website section which took me through html coding, Mozilla X-Ray Goggles which is a Firefox plugin that lets the user easily change html on any webpage and finally the Mozilla Popcorn Maker were you can mash up videos with other digital resources such as photos, text and even Wikipedia pages! Select your level, 1 being someone starting out, to 3 being someone more experienced. Each level having a range of projects suitable for that user.



Looks there are some fantastic activities for both primary and secondary aged pupils, at a time when interest in coding and digital creation has an increasing profile in Welsh education.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Samsung Chromebook and Google Apps for Education

After having a trial of some earlier in the term, Rhws Primary School have now purchased a number of Samsung Series 3 Chromebooks to use with their pupils. I've been kindly lent one by the school over the summer break to 'try out'. They are very light-weight, have a good 11.5" screen, full sized keyboard, headphone socket, built in mic and web cam, along with two usb ports, a HDMI out and a SD card slot. Impressively it boots up from off in under 10 seconds, no frustrating time spent waiting while Windows loads up. They appear to be excellent value for money, the school paying under £200 for each Chromebook and £19 extra per device for the Chromebook management licenses. The licenses enable the school to manage the Chromebooks from the Google Apps for Education administration panel. This allows them to assign apps and profiles to different groups or individuals. A pupil or teacher from the school logs into the Chromebook using their school Google Apps for Edu username and password and is immediately logged into all their Google services.

A couple of things to bare in mind if you are looking to use these in your school. You can't install software on the device, these are designed to use web based apps only. Therefore you do need to have good wifi access to the internet. As with any new technology you wish to bring into your school, I would always recommend having an in-school trial first. Does it work well in your own school, and for your staff and your pupils?

It should be interesting to observe how these are used by pupils and staff in the new academic year. To ensure full use is made of the various Google tools the school is making changes to the ICT curriculum highlighting the opportunities to teachers where Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides can be used.

I've made a video that you can view below showing the Chromebook and talking about how it ties in with the school's Google Apps for Education accounts.


Tuesday, 16 July 2013

The Impact of ICT on Pupils' Learning in Primary Schools - Estyn Report



The report shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who has been involved with ICT school improvement. Estyn have held up the mirror and confirmed what we already very much knew. It was quite a coincidence that I blogged about the need for a robust, reliable and resilient infrastructure within schools last Thursday evening, and then woke to a BBC Wales breakfast news report saying that this was the main finding of Estyn's report - spooky! For me, the other main highlight of their findings concerns the lack of ICT vision in most schools. Again, this is something that we have been finding in our recent discussions with schools. Even in schools who budget well and sustainably for ICT there is often a lack of vision around what they want ICT to achieve in their school, and very rarely (if ever) the impact it has on standards.




Here are my interpretations of the Estyn main findings. A primary school who uses ICT well would be one where:


Standards
- Pupils develop a full range of ICT skills by the end of KS2 (to include data handling and modelling).
- They use ICT to stretch the more able and talented.
- Pupils apply the skills learned in ICT lessons in other subjects.
- They use ICT to improve literacy standards in reading.
- They use video filming, editing and animation to improve pupils’ oracy, presentation, research and writing skills.
- They can show a link between the use of ICT and an improvement in standards.


Teaching and Learning
- Teachers use ICT to engage and enthuse pupils.
- Teachers are confident to deliver ICT the full range of the ICT programme of study in KS2.
- The ICT SoW is implemented effectively across the school.
- They assess and track pupils’ ICT skills against the NC.
- They have a good understanding of ICT standards.


Leadership and Management
- They have a clear vision for ICT.
- They have a clear determination to improve staff capacity, planning and provision for ICT.
- They ensure that all staff have the competence and confidence to use ICT well.
- They ensure there are opportunities for staff development in ICT that meets the learning needs of the pupils.
- They have an ICT plan that priorities key developments.
- They rigorously evaluate the effectiveness of their ICT plan against the impact on the pupils’ ICT or literacy and numeracy skills.
- They take a baseline assessment of pupils’ ICT skills before implementing a project or initiative.
- In Welsh language schools they take the decision to turn on the Welsh language interfaces of key software

At the risk of sounding 'old school' to some people - engage with the NAACE self review framework. By fully engaging in the SRF all these Estyn findings get addressed. Nothing should then be a surprise to you when Estyn come knocking on your door.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Rhws Primary Online - Google Apps for Education Pt4

As discussed in previous posts, much of first year of using Google Apps for Education at Rhws Primary School, has been focussed on the teachers use of the platform and helping them to gain the skills and confidence in working in this particular way. Therefore the school wanted to gather some information from them to find out what had worked well, what not so well, future CPD needs and general thoughts about its use.

The questions were devised and then easily built using Google Forms which was shared with the teachers. The web form was submitted online and the results automatically populated into a Google Spreadsheet for analysis. A summary of responses is also automatically created, some of which you can see at the end of this blog.

A couple of questions from the online questionnaire
The results from the questionnaire have proved to be very positive from the teaching staff and will give the senior leadership team ideas on how to further develop the platform and support the staff in its use.

Here's a sample of some of the comments provided by the staff in the questionnaire:

"Obviously takes time to become accustomed to new technology but it has made so many things much easier. Reports have been so much more straight forward and the planning is easier to share and collaborate with others."

"Very user-friendly. Even if I've missed the training (part-timers!!) the apps are easy to navigate. Icons/menus are self-explanatory."

"Excellent for Own Learning - reviewing, planning, creating (sometimes collaboratively), sharing and presenting. Pupils absolutely love (and benefit from) the collaborative capabilities of Rhws Online. There has been a significant increase in the levels of participation among ALL pupils in my class when they are allowed to work collaboratively (in pairs, or larger groups) on one single piece of work. They also thoroughly enjoy using the 'instant messenger' tool to communicate both in school, during lessons, and at home. As well, their individual ICT capabilities, skills and confidence has also shown a marked improvement. They are using all the different functions (apps) on their Rhws Online accounts confidently, independently and for a real purpose."

"have had a bit of a steep learning curve, and initially had problems accessing everything because of computer or software compatibility, however now I could not be without it. I am still learning and am slowly starting to use more and more of the features. Communication is so much easier now!"

"It is easy to use and is a brilliant tool to enable collaboration and instant communication."

The following are screen shots showing a summary of the results:










Thursday, 11 July 2013

The Future is in the Cloud - as long as you have the infrastructure

I've been thinking about the cloud in education for some time, hence my posts about Google Apps for Edu or Microsoft 365. So it was with interest that I read this blog post by Matt Britland titled "What is the future of technology in education?" In the post Matt proposes that the future of technology in education "is in the cloud". I tend to agree with nearly all that he says in the post. Freely available core tools available from any device, anytime, anywhere. Alongside online storage in the form of Google Drive or Skydrive. As Matt says, schools "will not need software installed, servers or local file storage." I'm sure certain large cost savings can be made by schools, along with removing the stress many of them feel in trying to maintain and upgrade a traditional server network. If a school also looks at the option of subscribing to some online content or tools providers that support specific areas of the curriculum, filling in any gaps in coverage, then most of the ICT tools for a school (especially a primary school) are covered. BYOD becomes easier to manage. Devices don't have to be connected to the schools internal network, and the security issues associated with that. Any web enabled device could be brought in and connected to the internet to access the relevant tools and services through an appropriately filtered connection. Everything delivered through the web.



Sound wonderful, yes? However, the caveat to working this way is that schools will need a robust, resilient and reliable infrastructure, along with a quick internet connection. I'm currently visiting primary schools around SE Wales and infrastructure and internet connectivity is a concern of many of the schools. It is very difficult for me to engage head teachers in conversations about how technology can enhance learning and teaching, help improve their organisation and management processes, when the technology is just so unreliable or doesn't work. Hopefully the Learning in Digital Wales (LiDW grant) from Welsh Government will deliver some of the necessary infrastructure improvements needed to local authorities and schools.

"We want Wales to be a world leader in digital learning, therefore we need to be able to offer our schools fast, consistent and reliable broadband services," said First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones.  

We certainly do. In the autumn term the Welsh Government will begin its roll out of the Hwb+ learning platform to schools. Lets hope all our schools are in a postion to maximise the potential of working in the cloud.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Photos from the National Digital Learning Event

Some photographs taken at today's National Digital Learning Event at the Cardiff City stadium. 



Monday, 17 June 2013

Rhws Primary Online - Google Apps for Education Pt3

In Pt2 I talked about how Rhws Primary School introduced Google Apps for Education into the organisational processes of the school. How the staff uploaded their planning documents to Rhws Teachers Online, had easy access to essential school documents, shared meeting minutes and recently collaborated with several members of staff on their end of year pupil reports.

As I previously explained, the aim was to get staff used to using the platform for their everyday work, to help them gain some confidence and skills in using the platform before engaging the pupils in learning and teaching activities. However, it wasn't long before a couple of teachers and a learning support assistant wanted to get the pupils online and try out some of the various tools that were available to them. Yr5 and Yr6 pupils were given user names and passwords which allows them access to many of the tools that their teachers have. Like the staff, the pupils were directed into 'Rhwsters Online' via the school's website. This Google Site was built as a landing page for the pupils, where there are shortcuts to their Google Drive, GMail, Google Sites, PurpleMash (which the school has subscribed to),  Gooru (which is a search engine for learning) and a link to Google Maps. A RSS newsfeed from BBC Newsround is embedded and finally 'Frogger' (which you may have played if you are as old as me :-)

Rhwsters Online


Yr5 teacher, Mr. Allers has kindly allowed me to share with you, in his own words, some of the activities he has been involved in with his class


Google Sites
Pupils first starting creating sites linked to their topic - which was WW2 at the time. It didn't take them long to familiarize themselves with sites and its capabilities. I am now looking to get the pupils to create a personal site which will pretty much act as an 'Education Passport' which will be all about their learning experiences, skills, abilities, interests and most importantly, targets - maths, English, Welsh, guided reading - pretty much anything constructive feedback they get thorough the year, can be listed on their 'Targets' page.

Example of page from a pupils WWII site

Google Drive
This feature has been the most relevant to my class as of late. I decided to take the pupils 'Own Learning' - which is Rhws' version of homework, online. The pupils all created a 'review template' in their own drives, which they use fortnightly to review what they have been learning. They also then explain how they've learned it and what they would like to learn more about. They then share this with me, online of course. I then send the pupils their Own Learning task via email, which they access/retrieve at home. So far, the tasks have revolved around the pupils using the different functions/apps in their drives - word document, questionnaire, spreadsheet, drawing and presentation. I set up a scanner in my classroom and trained the pupils on how to use it. This allowed the pupils to continue creating 'manual' pieces of Own Learning like drawings, etc. They also scan photographs and various other hard copy items and upload all of these into their own drives, always sharing with me.

GMail
I have allowed my pupils to use the email function of their online accounts. So far, there has been no issues with this in fact, quite the opposite. Pupils, 9-10 yrs old, actually email me in the weeknights and over the weekends for completely positive, educational reasons. I can understand that some teachers may not appreciate fielding emails from pupils in the evening and over the weekends but again, not only has this empowered the pupils, it has made them entirely more independent! I actually don't receive that many emails - they tend to email each other with their queries!!

Collaboration
In pairs/small groups, go down to the Forest School area and pick a piece of shrubbery (flowers, etc). Then write a creative, short story about how that object got there. Ensure you do it collaboratively - one partner/group member open up a document and share it with the other members. (Multiple users can access the same document at the same time and edit it). Use instant messages to communicate/sort each other out.

In pairs (guided reading session) one person writes a basic sentence. Then the other person has to up-level the sentence, taking turns. This task is to be done collaboratively (when I say this, the pupils know to share a document between them. They are very good at quickly deciding who is going to open and share.)

Silent lessons:
Some lessons we do will be totally 'silent'. The only form of communication will be via instant messages. This has proved particularly beneficial in terms of inclusion. Even the extremely quiet and shy pupils who normally NEVER put themselves forward to ask questions or speak publicly get involved. They happily, and confidently, send myself and other members of the class messages throughout the lesson. What's most pleasing is how on-task all of these instant messages are. I had to show the pupils how to add each other/accept their instant messenger requests and we also had to change our settings to allow desktop pop-ups - meaning that regardless of the screen or window they're in, the message will show on the screen. 

Taking it further:
Now that all the pupils in my class are well versed at using their Google accounts, I am now going to branch out in terms of access to a wider of Google apps - we have already 'connected' to a few different picture editing apps, which the pupils have been using to edit/alter different pics that they have uploaded and shared with each other.



What I find pleasing is that Mr. Allers as well as trying out the more traditional ways of working with tools such as word processing and presentations, he is also utilising the collaborative capabilities of working 'in the cloud'. Sharing documents, collaborative writing activities and using the messaging tool. He's also started to investigate a couple of other freely available 3rd party apps that can support learning and teaching. The picture editing apps for example fill gap in the range of tools offered by Google Apps for Education. A neat feature of the apps he's currently looking at is that they work together with Google Drive. A pupil opens the app from Google Drive, works on the image and it's saved back into their drive. Everything is kept in one place.

In my next Google Apps for Education blog I'll share the results of an online questionnaire that the teachers recently submitted about the first year of using Rhws Primary Online.


  

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Embedding and Sharing Pupils' Work

During my conversations with teachers I often ask, "What do you do with the digital work that your pupils produce?" In many instances however, the good work that pupils produce is often stuck on a school network somewhere, never seeing the light of day again. Which sometimes begs the question, what was the reason and context for doing the activity in the first place? I do try to get schools to think about how they go about celebrating and sharing that work with a wider audience. Think about ways in which you can use your school website or learning platform to share that work. Use a class blog or even a YouTube channel as a mechanism for wider sharing.
This morning I've been playing around with 2Simple's Purple Mash, a product that we actively encouraged schools to use in Newport when I was previously working there. In fact, it was built into the skills ladders that many of the schools used there. It's been a little while since I've been back in and today I've had a good look around and one particular feature caught my eye - the ability to share or embed. A simple feature that allows the user to either create a link so that others can view their work, or an embed code allowing them to embed the work into a web page. See an example below - click on the green arrow to see the front of the postcard:



I think this is really neat and easy, and a super incentive to get children to produce their best work if it's going to be published to the world! From what I've seen it looks like you can publish out 'postcards' on a variety of topics, 2Publish Extra Projects again on a variety of topics, and the wonderful 2DIY 3D pupil made games.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

MindMup - Free Mind Mapping Software

For a while I've been looking for a free piece of mind mapping software for schools, and so got quite excited when I stumbled across MindMup this evening. What I particularly liked was the fact that you are able to store public mind maps on their own servers, however private mind maps are stored in your Google Drive. There's no need to register or remember accounts, once connected just go to your Google Drive and create your mind map which is then saved back to your drive.

Open Mind Map directly from your Google Drive
According to their blog, MindMup is "free, opensource, without any marketing, ads or spam" - what more can a school ask for? ;-) It goes on to say that the user interface automatically adjusts to touch displays or desktops/laptops systems, and that on desktops, all map operations have keyboard shortcuts. On mobile devices, toolbars convert to touch menus and buttons become larger. 

I've had a play around with it and it is easy to use and to save your work. There is even a feature that allows collaboration between users on a particular mind map. 

Mind mapping screen

Saturday, 8 June 2013

ICT @ Mount Pleasant 2013 - Presentation

Andy Rothwell, deputy head teacher at Mount Pleasant Primary School, has very kindly allowed me to share the presentation (Prezi) he gave to ICT co-ordinators earlier this week.

Here's the direct link - http://prezi.com/gsxreb-jsqsn/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy


Friday, 7 June 2013

ICT Reviews and Coordinator Meetings Re-Launch

Had a very busy couple of days arranging and having meetings with head teachers and ICT co-ordinators, and it's going to continue in this way almost until the end of term and beyond. Our team is currently working with a group of schools, providing each with a review of how ICT is currently being used across the whole school. It's been a fantastic opportunity for us to visit schools and colleagues across SE Wales that we haven't yet had a chance to meet and to discuss the current postion of ICT in their schools and to get an understanding for their future needs.We really are looking forward to working with them and eventually getting around all 266 of them!

On Wednesday and Thursday we also ran ICT co-ordinator's meetings at two venues. One in Nant Celyn Primary School in Torfaen and the other in Mount Pleasant Primary School, Newport. Presentations came from Chris Price, Leader of Technology in Nant Celyn who showed colleagues how he used various ICT tools to support an integrated topic with his Yr5 class. I'm hoping to get hold of the presentation he gave and I'll post it here.  

Chris Price, Leader of Technology Rich Learning

Andy Rothwell, deputy head teacher of Mount Pleasant, delivered quite an insight into how they use ICT across the whole school, and the seven year journey to get where they are today. As well as exciting learning & teaching activities in the school, such as the use of gaming to raise boys literacy standards, a big focus has been the way ICT is used to support school organisation, and help teachers access and collate a large variety of planning and curriculum documents. They've just received an excellent report from Estyn and ICT is highlighted in many places throughout the report. I think that Andy certainly 'wowed' the group when he showed them the current work that he is doing on the way the school is tracking the LNF skills, using Google Spreadsheets. One co-ordinator remarked, "Can we buy this from you?!"

Andy Rothwell, Deputy Head Teacher
We also had presentations from the new Hwb Digital Leaders who will be working in the region. Glyn Rogers (Wednesday) and Matthew Geary (Thursday) talked about the Hwb+, the new national learning platform and showed us some screen shots of the platform and talked through some of its functionality. They also explained to the group the role the Digital Leaders will be playing in the roll out of Hwb+ to schools.

Matthew Geary, Hwb Digital Leader

Personally, it was great to have these meetings set up again after moving to the EAS from Newport LA.  Many of the school ICT co-ordinators I'd spoken to over the last couple of months all mentioned how they missed these meetings. A chance to meet up with colleagues from other schools, to network and to find out something new.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Rhws Primary Online - Google Apps for Education Pt2

In Pt1 I briefly explained how I began shaping my ideas of how Google Apps for Education could be used in a primary school. After explaining my thoughts and showing her 'models' I'd created, my wife who is currently acting head teacher at Rhws Primary School wondered whether these tools and services delivered by Google, could help to improve communication between the staff in her school? But it was clear when we started to discuss this further that it wasn't just communication between staff that we were trying to improve, it was many of the administrative practices that teachers had to carry out that could be improved too.

I think it's important to bare in mind here that the school began this process before the Hwb+ national platform arrived for schools in Wales. However, I believe that most of the approaches that I'll describe below are as relevant to all Welsh primary schools about to launch with Hwb+ or any other learning platform. For instance the new version of Microsoft Office 365 (which is included in the Hwb+ platform) has many of the same features as Google Apps for Education (email, calendar, document collaboration) and from what I've seen of the Hwb+ platform, it too lends itself perfectly to the ways of working I describe below.

Rhws Teachers Online landing page

The platform 'Rhws Teachers Online' was constructed using Google Sites. Once a member of staff had logged in they would have easy access to a variety of shared documents and school calendar, alongside tools and services such as email and their own Google Drive. This would be the first time that the school would have its own unique email address for all staff (@rhwsprimaryonline.co.uk), removing the need for them to use their own personal email addresses for work related communication. Each user has 25GB of Gmail storage and 5GB of Google Drive storage. Another positive reason to work in 'the cloud' is that it should be no longer necessary for staff to carry USB drives around with them. Upload your file from home to Google Drive and download and use at school.

Introducing the Platform to Teaching Staff

Toward the end of September 2012 the acting head teacher introduced the platform to teachers. During an after school meeting teachers were given their usernames and passwords and initially taken through the login process. They were taken on a quick tour of the platform and shown how to access their Gmail account and then left to 'play'. A couple of weeks later the teachers were shown how to upload documents to the planning area and how to use Google Drive to create and store documents. The majority of teaching staff picked up the necessary skills very quickly and by January 2013 all staff were using the site on a regular basis, uploading their planning files and reading and sending emails.

The Login Process

Users could either login to their account via the Google search page or via a link on the school website.
It was recommended to staff to login via the school website as this directs the them to the Rhws Teachers Online landing page. I'll take you through a couple of the sections found on that site.

School Calendar

School staff calendar

From my own experiences of teaching in a primary school I felt that there was a strong need for an online calendar that was shared with all staff. In many primary schools the school diary tends to reside in the secretary's office or with the head teacher. Therefore it could be only viewed while in school. The only other source of information is often a dry wipe whiteboard in the staffroom where the week ahead is written out for everyone. Google Calendar has been embedded into the page and is regularly updated by the acting head teacher. Several members of staff now access this calendar along with their school email account via their smartphones.

Planning Area

Spring planning area for Yr.5 teachers

Prior to the Rhws Teachers Online area being built, staff would store their lesson planning documents on the school network. The school felt that it would be advantageous to move all their planning to the platform allowing:

  • all staff to have access to their planning from the web wherever, whenever 
  • 'job share' and peer year group staff to collaborate on planning templates (Google Docs)
Much of the planning at present is in the form of previous planning being uploaded as Word documents. However, the intention is to slowly migrate completely to Google Docs. This would allow for easy collaboration between staff on planning (sharing the workload) and allow for much easier updating of the planning in the following academic year. There would be no need to upload new documents, just amend the existing.

A good example of one of the benefits to moving the planning area to 'the cloud' was when a member of staff was unable to come into work due to illness on the first day after the two week Christmas break. "Don't worry" she said, "all the planning has been uploaded." It was easy for a member of staff to login and print off the relevant pieces of planning for the supply teacher that day.

Quite a useful feature is the 'subscribe to changes' option that's available on many of the site's pages. By clicking this option you get an email sent to you every time someone uploads or makes a change on that particular page. A useful way for SMT to quickly monitor who has uploaded their planning or any other document. 

Minutes of Meetings

Minutes of Meetings page

All meeting minutes are now written up using Google Docs and almost immediately after the meeting shared with all the staff. The acting head teacher feels that the positive impact of this is that all LSAs and admin staff are able to easily access information from meetings that they are unable to attend.


Staff Administration

Staff Administration page

Various types of document are held here, such as school prospectus, results from parental questionnaires and policies. A very useful function of this area was in its use for the school Christmas concert. Music backing tracks, lyrics, cast lists, scenery list, etc. was uploaded for each of the relevant classes to access.

Report Writing

As I write this blog the teaching staff are currently using Google Apps to write their annual pupil reports to parents! This can be quite a stressful time for teachers, so it was a pretty big decision that the school made, and I personally know of no other school that has attempted this approach to report writing. Previously the school used a Word document template and the teachers wrote into this for each child. This year report templates were created in Google Docs for both Foundation Phase and KS2. During an after school meeting the teaching staff were shown how to access the relevant template from Rhws Teachers Online, create a folder in their Google Drive and save templates for each of the children in their class. The next step however is the clever bit, and shows the power in working on shared documents. Each report template was shared with various teachers who needed to input into an individual pupil's report;

  • teachers job sharing 
  • where children are 'streamed' for maths and English
  • specialist PE teacher
  • PPA teacher - Welsh, RE, music
  • the acting head teacher for proof reading and adding her own comments

All these groups now have access to the same document - therefore there's "one version of the truth". No need to print off reports that might have to be amended and reprinted, or digital files being emailed or transferred to others on an USB drive with the worry that they might be deleted, corrupted or which file is the latest version.  So far, so good, and I'll post a blog about this approach to report writing once all the reports have been completed.


In Pt3 I'll look at how pupils started to use Google Apps and some thoughts about how the school sees the various tools and services, including Hwb+, being effectively used for learning and teaching from September 2013.


Thursday, 23 May 2013

Rhws Primary Online - Google Apps for Education Pt1

For many years I have been a user of a variety of Google apps, everything from email account, calendar and contacts, to saving and sharing documents in Google Drive and creating websites with Google Sites. So it should come as no surprise that I started thinking about how a school could effectively use these tools. About 18 months ago I started experimenting by building 'mock' school websites, modelling what could possibly be done with the tools I had available. These sites were constructed using my own personal Google account, but aware that what was really needed was access to the freely available to schools Google Apps for Education in order to get a full understanding of what it could offer a school.



I browsed through case studies about how schools have implemented Google Apps for Education into their schools, and also read the 'techy' stuff showing how you can set it up for your school. All I now needed was a school willing to go with the vision I was developing.

Luckily my better half is the deputy head teacher of Rhws Primary School, and after me showing her some of the ideas I had, she threw down the challenge of setting up Google Apps for Education up in her school. The challenge she presented me with was initially an organisational one - how can we improve communication between the whole staff? In September of 2012 she was going to become acting head of the school, so was in prime postion to implement the necessary changes. Over my summer holiday break in 2012 I began the process, and there was plenty of material on the web by people who had been through this process and also lots of information provided by Google that helped me get the 'techy' backend stuff done. When this was completed, with relatively little pain, we were able to spend those long sunny rainy summer days planning out what she wanted to achieve and how we were going to do it.

Link page to Rhws Primary Online from school website

The school already had an active school website which they didn't want to lose, so the name Rhws Primary Online was chosen to separate the school website from the new online teachers area. This was built using Google Sites and would be the private staff area for the school. From an early stage we felt that it would be important that the school staff got used to working and communicating together in a new way, before bringing the pupils into the project. We believed that the pupils would pick up the necessary skills quickly but wanted to make sure that the staff could gain the confidence, skills and understanding in how to use the tools before engaging in learning and teaching with the pupils in the online environment. We also felt that it was important that this way of working became embedded in the working practices of the school. I had heard about too many school online platforms 'dying' because only the ICT enthusiasts in the school used the platform - the platform never being seen as an integral part in role of a teacher. We certainly didn't want the technology to be seen as a bolt-on, technology was going to be used to help to change the way the whole school organisation worked.

In the next blog I will look at the reasons why the school wanted to change some of the administrative practices and how they went about it.


  

Monday, 20 May 2013

Thinkquest - The End Of An Era

Over the weekend I received an email from Oracle informing me that they are finally "sunsetting the Thinkquest program" in June. For my colleagues and I this is certainly an end of an era. For over 6 years Think.com, as it was formally known, was an integral part of our online elearning strategy in Newport alongside Moodle. It gave our primary schools the ability to extend opportunities for learning for pupils away from the classroom. Pupils and schools could communicate and collaborate together on their own projects, sharing ideas and thoughts. For two years we had one school working with a school in Belgium comparing and contrasting their localities. It was truly a worldwide tool allowing all schools in the Thinkquest community (which was huge) to contact one another and work together. I've yet to find another platform that does this so simply as Thinkquest did. I don't think Oracle really understood what they had and with a little bit of updating it could have been a truly wonderful online collaborative platform. I'll certainly be sad to see it go.

Here's a link to one of my previous blog posts and video about Thinkquest.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Google Play for Education and Nexus Tablets

It was only a matter of time but it's nice to see Google about to enter the Apple iPad dominated handheld education market with its own offering.



Have a read here and register your interest...

Thursday, 28 February 2013

Primary School Computer Science - 'Struggleware'

I thought you might like to read this blog from Anthony Evans titled Coding, Computer Science and iPads - My Current View. It's quite an interesting and useful article that touches on many of the current issues surrounding the enthusiasm for computer science and coding in the classroom. He touches upon he frustration of the lack of apps to help to teach children to code, but then goes on to give the reader lots of examples of apps and PC based programs to help develop this area in the primary school. I was also interested in the opening paragraph which talks about the iPad:

"If a school invests wholesale in a set of iPads  then the ICT curriculum for these children can be based largely around internet research, movie making and a collection of multimedia authoring apps. And though I love my iPads and iPad lessons the aspect of struggle or challenge for children using these devices is not always apparent or indeed talked about."

I like the idea of 'struggle' and the idea of 'struggleware'. Software that makes the user problem solve to get something to work, not just passively consuming. This is what attracted me several years ago to Bamzooki, and observing how most children (and some teachers!) enjoyed the struggle to create a Zook, to certain set criteria, that can be so rewarding. There's the opportunity for pupils to succeed, to improve, to fail and to learn from the failures.

Video of showing the highlights from heat 4 of the Newport Bamzooki Challenge

"If there is no struggle there is no progress." Frederick Douglass

I'm Just A Muggle

Lots of discussion about computer science at the moment and it playing a far greater part in education, so have a look at this video made by http://code.org



Just love the bit about programmers being the "wizards of the future." With my poor or non existent programming skills, this must make me a 'muggle', or 'squib' at least!

Monday, 25 February 2013

iPads in Education - Reasons Against??

Well worth reading this blog entitled "Too cool for school: 7 reasons why tablets should not be used in education". Donald raises some of the concerns that I have with the 'blanket use' of these in some classrooms. What do you think?