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.

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!!

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 -

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.