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!
I was fortunate to be asked to present at SWGfL ICT conference for a second time last week following on from a very successful GBL project Playing the Writing Game (PTWG) in Wiltshire. I wanted to write a post about it because embarking on this particular project has sent me in an altogether different direction to that I was travelling before it began. The project as you will probably know if you have been following previous posts was to use games in the classroom to inspire and motivate underachieving and disengaged boys. More specifically, it was to improve their use of vocabulary (AF7). I have documented the progress of the project both here and via my class’ blog so there is no need to revisit, But what I wanted to write about was what happened as a result of the project. At the beginning of the project, Tim Rylands was brought in to kickstart our journey, he gave us the benefit of his extended knowledge on Web 2.0 tools, links, devices, strategies etc all of which were invaluable. But the advice to join Twitter was the first step to change. Of course I had heard of Twitter before and had a quick look, noticed what some had had for breakfast, saw when someone was travelling by train and giving a blow by blow account of the journey, and others that were commenting on the daily news. I couldn’t see the attraction if I was perfectly honest! However, if Mr R. thought it worthy of a mention then it must be better than I had thought! I signed up and started to follow all the people that Tim and Simon (our ICT advisor) followed. I soon realised that WHO you followed was crucial, they then in time followed back and my following and follower tallies were creeping upwards. A couple of weeks in and I was recognising a lot of names that I had heard of via the teaching community. It seemed incredible that one minute I was beginning a GBL project and the next I was tweeting, collaborating and sharing with luminaries in this field – amazing! Doors that I believe would be firmly shut by other routes were now being flung open and a warm welcome was being given.
That was nearly a year ago and I can honestly say I have never looked back. I have met (virtually and otherwise) a host of lovely people who although not friends in the normal sense of the word, are giving and helpful. I have presented at a Teachmeet in Bath (my first and definitely not my last). I have built a substantial Personal Learning Network (PLN) of contacts, experts, colleagues and gurus who I feel happy to contact my fellow tweeps about a variety of topics and questions. I can post a request and within 10 minutes receive upwards of 15 responses – fantastic! The project’s success also enabled me to have plenty to say about my experiences of GBL and to share ideas. I have liaised with Wiltshire and Swindon Learning Resources about content in their excellent multimedia boxes. Simon and I have created a blog called the South West Games Based Learning network which harnesses superb ideas and planning to enable others to ‘have a go’ and to read about others who have! This we hope will enable other contributors share their experiences too and be a truly collaborative project.
This blog and my class blog were also created to reflect and publish our efforts and thinking as the year progressed (and as a direct nudge from the tweeting community, @deputymitchell and others) and my children have absolutely loved posting and even creating their own personal blogs, discussing their daily learning which I was personally thrilled about.
Last week I had the pleasure of presenting at the conference and to have Tim sitting at the back and tweeting about me made me feel very honoured and proud. Several people have since contacted me as a direct result of the seminar who I am more than happy to help begin their GBL journey. A few posts ago I wanted time to reflect and assimilate all that I had heard and learnt from the conference. I’m still thinking how to implement a lot of what was said, especially from Ewan McIntosh’s keynote (he’s due to blog about it soon) – if you were there you’ll understand that I shall now be ‘conducting with my eyebrows’ to make learning a risk, challenging and meaningful. If you weren’t there then go to his blog and find out more, you won’t regret it!
So, in summary I have taken a different route that has given me so many cpd opportunities to improve my teaching practice. I have learnt more this year by joinging Twitter than probably in the last 3 by conventional means. I forget who said it (apologies) but Twitter is like a river that constantly flows, you don’t have to row back to the beginning in case you miss something. You simply join in when you need to and glean what you feel is appropriate for your situation. If the next year is as beneficial as this year has been, then I will have a lot to be thankful for by joining this particular social network.
With encouragement from my fellow tweeters I have signed up for my first Teachmeet presentation which is being hosted at Bath Spa University on 7th February 2011 (5:30 – 8:30). It’s an opportunity for teachers to share ideas and insights using technology with other teachers. The informality of the event simply allows the time for teachers to talk to other teachers about what they are doing, about to do or would like to do. The collaboration aspect of the event is what I am most looking forward to and perhaps the opportunity to visit the university where I studied for my degree and PGCE.
Given what I have been doing in class for the last term, it didn’t take long to decide what to talk about – games based learning!! It will be a challenge to keep it to five minutes but a challenge I am willing to take on. I have had lots of positive comments from visitors to this blog and on Twitter about what has been happening in Bowood Class over the past eight weeks or so. Hopefully, the intention is to continue using games in my classroom, notably Night at the Museum 2 on the Wii and Just Dance, again using the Wii. I intend to post how I and my class get on with it all, so watch this space!
I am currently part of a LA project initiated by the Literacy and ICT advisory teams, that aim to inspire children to write using games as the driver in this aim. By using familiar games and gaming equipment in a different context – the classroom, children will then connect with the games and become immersed in an environment that inspires them to want to write. I have certainly found this to be the case with my class – they have simply loved Wild Earth African Safari and My Word Coach!
My enthusiasm for this way of learning has been inspired by three people in particular @dawnhallybone, @tombarrett and @primarypete_ who have all shared their expertise with me in this area of learning – thank you!
So whether you are giving a five minute presentation, a one minute – one tool idea, or being part of the enthusiastic audience, the chance to get involved in learning conversations seems to me to be a valuable aspect of cpd that promises to be worth the effort.