Sharing ideas and all things ICT… I am a Y2 teacher, AHT, ICT subject leader and mum

Archive for the ‘Collaborative learning’ Category

Leading on learning

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Punctuating what seems like a very long term was a well planned opportunity for schools in both Westbury and Warminster to merge and become inspired.  Held at Kingdown School in Warminster (and very hosted at that), the final day of the term was an INSET crammed full of interesting and inspiring workshops but to start was a keynote speaker, who, until that day I had not heard of, but from that day I will not forget!  Alison Peacock is the headteacher of Wroxham Primary School in Potters Bar, and has taken her school from failing to outstanding by arguing that grouping by ability actually holds children back.  Alison and her staff have removed the limiting beliefs  about fixed abilities and fixed futures and has instead become a listening school.  Listening to her speak resonated with many of my beliefs about children.  She spoke with passion and humour especially with her encounters with the current Education Secretary!  A video was shown about all the great things that were happening at her school, including the double decker bus that is a library in the playground!  But more poignantly were the children who spoke with great authority about their learning, challenge and love of school.  Included in the video was an exuberant teacher called Mr Davy who enthused me, and what’s more he was the teacher leading my final workshop – couldn’t wait (especially as others had seen him earlier in the day and were singing his praises!) What a great start to the day.

My first workshop was ‘Challenging learners in Maths’ ran  by two secondary teachers from our local secondary school, Matravers.  Many useful ideas were demonstrated that could be adapted in any year group classroom, such as the ‘So what…’ cards giving a statement such as ‘1 pair of socks cost £1.50’, the children would then think of questions like ‘How much would it cost to buy socks for a spider?’ etc etc.  Good for talking maths and collaboration.  Another idea was having laminated hexagons where the first one said ‘Multiples’ and then the children have to think of other maths areas that link.  These are then written on separate hexagons with the aim of creating a flower but more importantly understanding the different connections.

The second workshop was ‘Inspiring independent learning’ with Alison Peacock who has just written a book called ‘Creating learning without limits’ following research completed at her school.  She spoke of key dispositions such as empathy, generosity, emotional stability, inventiveness, openness, persistence, questioning and humility.  In pairs we then recalled a time when we had encountered these dispositions and how we dealt with them.  An interesting reflective process although I would have loved to hear more about how she changed her school around continuing on from her fantastic keynote.

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Finally, the workshop I had been really looking forward to ‘Good to outstanding’ by Steve Davy a teacher from Wroxham Primary School.  Steve spoke with enthusiasm and an obvious love of his subject when he described the thematic and creative approach to learning that he instils in his classroom.  His frenetic approach was hard to keep up with at times but the amount of content he packed in to 45 minutes was astounding!  Peppered with humour and anecdotes and the odd request for Ritalin only made his presentation more endearing.  Lots of ideas how to incorporate grammar into all year groups were provided and I can’t wait to bring them into my classroom too!

Overall a very inspiring and creative day that provided not only great workshops but also the golden opportunity to share professional dialogue with other colleagues.  I hope we have further opportunities to work as a broader cluster as it is a valuable way to congregate and learn.

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Wiltshire ICT conference October 2013 Inspire Create Teach

On a roll now so creating the second post of the evening – better late than never!  A couple of weeks ago as a celebration event to signify the end of the Inpsire Create Teach project ran by Wiltshire ICT team, a conference was held at Center Parcs, Longleat.

The keynote speakers were both entertaining and informative and set the scene for what was going to be a fab day for all involved.  We were the first cohort of the project which is now involved with cohort 2 and as we had completed the project were asked to present seminars of a topic of our choosing but realting to the project.  I anticipated that many would select a journey approach and I was keen to do something a little different but just as relevant.  For me, the most important dawn awakening was to surpass the motivational and engagement pull of technology (specifically the iPads we were using) and concentrate on the pedagogical underpinning that I believed was necessary to ensure deeper and more meaningful learning.  My Prezi was called iPadagogy – integrating iPads tomake learning relevant, ,meaningful and contextual.  It is below for you to peruse and enjoy (hopefully!)  The conference itself was great, opportunities to be with like minded people who wanted to share and help each other is always a brillliant incentive.  The event was and has always been very well orgainsed and was a real pleasure to be part of.

The Aggregation of Marginal Gains combined with the art of being brilliant – PHEW!

Team GB‘s cycling team is now perhaps synonomous with the Aggregation of Marginal Gains made famous by Dave Brailsford.  He says, “It means taking the 1% from everything you do; finding a 1% margin for improvement in everything you do. That’s what we try to do from the mechanics upwards.”  Small things like athletes taking their own pillow around the world with them to reduce infections and to ensure a good night’s sleep and washing hands more thoroughly to ensure germs are not transferred more readily.  I began thinking….sometimes a rather dangerous pursuit.  This combined with my current read “The art of being brilliant” by Andy Cope and Andy Whittaker led me to think how I could apply some of these psychological approaches to my role as a team leader and teacher.

As Andy Cope and Andy Whittaker say, life is full of busyness (that’s how they spelt it) and to be more effective in our roles we have to harness being happy (apparently only 2% of the population are happy at any one time) and seek to eliminate or reduce the ‘mood hooovers’ in life who are on a perpetual cycle of negativity that sucks any positivity that is present.  I suspect we are all at one time or another a ‘mood hoover’, but strive to be happy.  Equipped with the 2 Andy’s and Team GB’s principles, I decided to ask my team to compile a list of small things that were either time consuming, annoying or got in the way of their roles.  Some items are duplicated which made the decision of trying to remove them somewhat easier.  An example was having to input a photocopier code for every document you wanted to print – 17 documents equals 17 code inputs.  Removal of the code therefore frees up more time – we’re on our way to begin aggregating those margins with the hope of massive gains!!!!  I’m only a third of  the way through this entertaining book so it must have had an impact to  make me proactive before even finishing!

This may of course seem whimsical or petty, but I really believe that (along with Dave Brailsford) controlling or changing lots of small things will indeed make a HUGE difference.  We are at the beginning of our journey to allow us ot be focussed on what we are good at, doing more of it and being the best we can be – whether that be teachers, team leaders, parents, spouses or friends.  Was I inspired?  Yes, without a doubt.

As an addendum to this post that was also recently tweeted, I was signposted by @ictevangelist (many thanks) to the fabuloUs blog of Zoe Elder  @fullonlearning http://marginallearninggains.com/  – much more excellent reading ahead…

Eliminating Gaps – what really works?

Last Monday, at the Eliminating Gaps – What really works? conference, I was invited to give a workshop by my LA on using technology to engage learners and ultimately narrow those gaps in attainment and progress.  This followed a very successful project ran by Wiltshire ICT and Literacy Team called Playing the Writing Game (see previous posts for more details).  Basically, all participant teachers across the county found that their focus groups of 6 vulnerable grouped children make at least 2 sub levels of progress during the six month project and finished the project with a much higher  engagement in literacy and using ICT.  Games based learning was at the core of this project and was the subject of my workshop.  It was a bit like speed dating or a Teachmeet, where we had 6 minutes to show and tell the many virtues of GBL to one group of delegates and then each group moved in a round robin so all delegates got to see all four worshops.

I had brought along my ever growing collection of Wii games, along with pith helmets, night watchman hats etc to give a real flavour of what GBL has to offer.  Of course, six minutes is a tight time in which to fit in all that could and maybe should be said about collaboration, engagement, emmersion, shared learning,  build community, language opportunities and so on, but I did my very best!  I also signposted the http://swgamesbasedlearning.wordpress.com blog that would give even more ideas and hopefully inspire them to have a go!

The surprise of the day was just how many Headteachers, teachers etc have devices which are currently redundant in the back of the cupboard and could be put to much better use.  I can’t think of a better use than hooking those reluctant children in to a world which inspires them to write, talk and communicate.

All in all, a great day!

Beginning of our Digital Leader journey…

I’ve heard about the  many virtues of having inspired children as Digital Leaders (DL) from fellow tweeters and teaching blogs over the past 6 months and was really keen to get on board.  I wanted to do the research prior to implementing it at my school in order for it to have the maximum impact possible.

On Monday I put up posters around the school advertising vacancies for DL.  Qualities required were given, benefits to apllicants were given and brief descriptions of role were given.  I planned to take the KS2 assembly to do my best pitch!  Ideally I would want 8 children from the current years 3,4 and 5.

Today was the assembly, 240 children sitting agog (not  because I was taking an assembly!!) but because they had all seen the posters and were keen to find out more.  I did my spiel and talked in full about what I had planned and how excited I was about this project.  Reciprocal learning was the message – of course I didn’t use that phrase but ultimately that’s what it is.   I explained the role in more detail, talking about commitment, collaboration, teamwork, patience and fun!

My final message was that an application form needed to be completed and returned to me by next Monday.  I would be giving out the forms at lunch time, outside my room.  Lunch time duly arrived and no 5, not 10 BUT 77 children were gathered outside my classroom.  All eagerly awaiting my arrival (I was on PPA) to collect the application forms.

By the end of lunch time, 39 forms had been returned.  I’m anticipating that many children wanted a little longer to fully consider their reasons for applying…

I am completely gob-smacked by the level of excitement and keenness to be part of an exciting project that will be the beginning of our journey together.  The next step is to shortlist (once the deadline has arrived) and interview the applicants – I can’t wait!

Original DL logo used and adapted with kind permission from http://www.kristianstill.co.uk

Inspire Create Teach with iPads!

Over the past few years I have been a great advocate of class based action research projects.  They allow me to focus on a particular aspect of eduation whereby I am given time to apply and reflect on my own teaching practice with the aim to improve it.  At the end of March, I submitted a bid for £5000 that would pay for 15 iPads.  My proposal was based on our needs at our school.  The expected outcomes of buying and using the iPads in the classrom would be:

  • Transform teaching and learning by changing the current classroom culture and embedding creative use of ICT
  • Make the classroom teaching and learning more interactive and creative in facilitating learning
  • Facilitate more personalised learning that is strongly linked to learners needs
  • Raise expectations and reduce the gap for lower performers
  • Raise standards in reading and writing for all
  • Close the digital divide and improve standards for all children
  • Motivate and engage reluctant readers and writers
  • Provide a platform for developing speaking and listening skills which in turn impact positively on reading and writing skills
  • Utilising emerging technologies in the classroom and exploring potential impact in supporting learning
  • Develop and embed effective inclusion strategies for children with SEND
  • Initiate an ICT cluster group to share good outcomes and practice
  • Develop role of Digital Leaders
  • Organise a Teachmeet/Kidsmeet

My baseline assessment is  to target a  cohort (unsure which year group at this point as not sure where I’ll be in September) in order to track, monitor and assess achievement and impact throughout the project.  Writing and reading levels will be used as a baseline and ambitious targets set with a specific focus on targeting those children who are underachieving.  Alongside this we would interview children on their attitudes to learning and engagement in this as well as parental observations on this.  This would then be re-assessed at the end of the project.  Interim data and performance indicators will be used to monitor the impact of ICT on learners.

Initial implementation of the iPads would be to provide a contextual hub for learning from which the children would utilise technology to develop language skills by accessing modelled apps, games and research.  Reluctant writers and readers would be engaged and motivated by seeing, hearing and exploring good language with a view to communicate learning by sharing and having an audience.  This could be achieved by provision and access to iPads and the wealth of opportunities they offer.  The focus will be on talk for reading and writing and there are a number of apps and functions on the ipads which will support and enhance this.

By developing the use of ICT in one year group we will be able to use action research to target successful strategies to support learning in reading and writing through the development of language skills.  This can then be disseminated to other classes and enhance the work of the school in raising standards.

Having a bank of iPads offers flexibility of learning as they could be rotated class to class or timetabled for use in class or in small groups across the school.  The iPads will give us provision and access to all children across the school through a range of exciting opportunities.  Other pockets of underachievement could then also be addressed using this medium.

As an aside, we have a number of children with SEND and believe Ipads will provide an additional focus for continued inclusion and enhanced learning.  IPads would be instrumental in providing visual learning, helping with therapy and turn taking.  These devices would also help non-verbal children communicate more effectively.  These children are less likely in some instances to have access to ICT at home so we will be able to reduce the gap for them in their successful use of digital resources as part of learning.

I’m always looking for ways to improve learning and maintain motivation and engagement for the children I teach.  This project is an exciting one which I cannot wait to get underway.  I hope to post my progress throughout this project and share my findings.

Curiosity Kits for reluctant readers

Several years ago, I came across some brilliant research by Maureen Lewis and Ros Fisher on how to engage reluctant readers, in particular boys in Years 3 and 4, where typically their interest waned.  Being motivated by its content, I decided to make up some of my own Curiosity Kits.  The premise of these kits are story bags (I used nylon drawstring PE bags) which have a non-fiction book of a particular interest to boys e.g. knights, dragons, football, dinosaurs etc.  Accompanying the non – fiction book would be an artefact related to the topic,  a laminated word search which again contained words pertinent to the book.  A magazine was also included, which while aimed at adults would encourage an adult male in the family to share the kit.  I included a book review with question, comment and rating boxes added.  Now this involved quite a financial commitment from me, but I was quite canny with how I gathered the resources.  My first job were the books and as most schools seem to have a ‘Book Man/Company’ that surreptitiously leave a collection of books in the staffroom each term, this was easy to acquire for a reasonable cost.  I seem to remember I got 10 DK non-fiction books for £10 – a great start which then dictated what topics would be used.  Small toys etc were found via eBay and such like.  Laminated word searches were easy to make using an online word search maker but the magazines were a stumbling block.  They were as expensive at about £3-5 each so I began ringing around publishers and explained what I was doing and they (well, most) were only too happy to provide a few copies for my kits.  Some were even kind enough to provide 6 or more backdated copies which was brilliant!!

I knew, ideally, that I wanted a class set but that would be too expensive so I settled on 15 which actually turned out really well because only half the class at any one time has them to take home for a week, which then builds up expectation and excitement for those having to wait.  Although the topics are ‘boy’ friendly, this by no means excludes the girls, who were only too pleased to loan them for a week as well.

The feedback I got from parents was fantastic, they actually enjoyed sharing the kit with their child and the opportunity to do something different.  I included a little box on the book review for the parents (if they wanted) to complete regarding their thoughts and I’m glad I did as the response was superb and reiterated by original reasons for setting them up in the first place.

If you are reading this and think, I’d like to do the same but don’t know where to start, get in touch and I can pass on the lending cards, clipart for the kits, checking out list, book review forms, the research word searches and any advice you think you may need, then just tweet me @nickynewbury and I’ll do my very best to help.

Oh, and how did the boys do?  Well, let’s just say that there were no reluctant readers after using these!!!  Think that is testament enough?