Developing Digital Literacy: Part one – Digital Portfolios

With digital technology becoming more prevalent in our schools, we must ensure that it is added to school teaching and learning. Otherwise, why are we using it at all?

Over the last year, I have been working with my team to support teachers in embedding digital literacy into their subjects.

[This has been in conjunction with a range of other elements within the school.]

In term one, staff were encouraged to use core elements set out during our remote learning period and just prior.

Such as:

  • Seesaw (Foundation Stage 1 – Year 4)
  • Google Classroom (Year 5-13)

Being specific has allowed consistency across year groups for teachers and parents to engage with their children’s work and support, especially those at home. As a school, we use these. The same can be seen across other schools, using Microsoft or platforms like Showbie or Edmodo.

In addition to this, we had also been delivering professional development for Google Certified Educator, Apple Teacher and Seesaw ambassadors. This allowed self-paced learning, completing badges and courses enabled staff to see their digital technology skills grow. They were embedding it as they develop and also relevant as they were using it daily.

They were doing small things over time, reflecting on how it changed their workflow and supported students to engage in learning. This works, regardless of hybrid, remote or in school learning. Pacing the development of staff allows time to develop skills meaningfully.

To ensure all staff confidence, quick things like:

  • Survey confidence regularly
  • Asking if staff want to share skills they have learnt, being “champions.”
  • Use colleagues to check in on staff who shared their concerns about digital literacy, support them with informal chats

You can also keep an eye on any admin platforms.

I have found that this is a great way to ensure that staff are confidently using technology.

E.g. on Seesaw you can show consistency across a year group. The work being posted home or comments and feedback. In schools, it can be hard to have one class sending 100s of posts a week and another sending less than 50.

This disparity shows us as teachers that there is a confidence issue, but equally, is anther teacher using it too much? Can co-teaching then be introduced? The teacher posting more can support and guide the year group, showing simple ways to develop the platforms’ use.

Having now embedded digital portfolios and classrooms it improved students ability to be independent, to develop their reflection skills; they are notified when feedback is given, and they have work ready for them when they need to revise. Throughout the school, students develop new skills in using digital technology, from scanning in written work or completing quizzes to typing an assignment and collaborating on documents for a group task.

Even with small changes like embedding a core platform to have all students digital and none digital work is building skills for students which can be developed and adapted over time. Tangible skills are going to be beneficial to them in the future.

Feedback from students this year has been:

  • They know what is expected of them for every task
  • They know how and when things need to be handed in
  • They are able to access and use the feedback given to them in a more meaningful way to in their physical books, notifications make this simpler and help them to be organised
  • They are in control of their own progression, being able to challenge themselves or find additional work to do if they complete tasks before others.

ADAPT – Thrive on the Momentum

The COVID whirlwind is still spiralling for many educators. Education technology has been brought to the forefront of everyone’s minds, so where next and what should we do to ensure that it is meaningful and the best for every child?

Over the last 18 months, schools have been through digital transformations, planned possibly, but equally faster than anticipated. Now schools worldwide are using technology in classrooms to differing degrees, but how do we strike a balance between this being meaningful or being overused and unsupportive of students’ learning outcomes?

From working with on developing digital learning, technology has seen been seen as a gimmick. I, for one, know after delivering over 1000 hours of CPD online to educators in the first lockdown alone that digital learning is now being seen as much more than just the shiny new toy.

We have full attention!

But how do we transition from “surviving” through COVID to “thriving” with learning as our end goal?

And, with so many staff now engaged in the concept of digital learning, we need to keep this momentum going.

We reflect…

Given the task of looking at how well technology and digital literacy have developed in school, I took the opportunity also to change perceptions of how learning walks could be completed in a way which focused on being able to adapt and develop our teaching and learning methods continually.

Without “formal” judgment. But with relevant outcomes to nurture a sense of success for the things which work and we should hold onto, share and develop.

To make the impact and outcomes of digital learning tangible to leadership and stakeholders, I needed to use a visual framework for success. The outcomes could then link to what we can still be improved.

I took insight from the ADAPT model, presented by Oliver Caviglioli and Tom Sherrington in their book Teaching WalkThrus: Five-step guides to instructional coaching. Coaching is vital; we are not judging but supporting one another to achieve our goals.

One of the reasons I chose this model as opposed to the “traditional” learning walk was due to the nature of it being an ongoing concept of ADAPT-ing & Coaching.

I know I feel panic and pressure to perform if someone is coming into my classroom when planned, no matter my experience in some schools for teachers to not receive any feedback. I much prefer an open door, a community of sharing good practice. Not the case in all schools, so I hope this idea can provide some ideas about how to think differently.

What is ADAPT?

Attempt, Develop, Adapt, Practice & Test.

So to begin my review, I looked at the ADAPT model and also looked at the Apple Rubric from the book Elements of learning, something which I have used in several schools to support embedding meaningful digital concepts; I modified the Apple Rubric reducing the criteria’s to three areas,

  • Using digital skills in lessons
  • Students understanding of how to use digital tools
  • Enhancement of the subject

I love a rubric, the use of them in lessons is supportive to our students, guiding them, developing, showing what is expected, so it made sense to have a similar tack when completing a learning walk.

The rubric allowed assessment of how well digital technology has been integrated into the schools teaching and learning. The primary outcome being that students understood what they were being taught and that it was helpful to their learning outcomes, not an add on. From my perspective as well, having completed one 18 months ago, it was interesting to compare the progress of the strategy.

To be able to assess this, the “learning walk” would take the format of the following:

Element One: Staff Survey

Questions designed to encourage personal reflection, allowing recognition of how far they have come in 12 months, considering the weeks and additions in line with the students in front of you, the context of curriculum and new technology or tools available to you.

  • Focusing on one essential subject or lesson, where do you place yourself in the ADAPT model?
  • Considering the same essential subject or lesson, where would you like to be on the ADAPT model next term?
  • How do you rate your confidence in using digital technology?
  • Has digital literacy been added to your curriculum?

To support, I created a document explaining the ADAPT concept to staff, so they could confidently answer the question. They are considering all of the new tools they have been using.

This was important, I find a big barrier to digital teaching and learning is this concept that you must “master” when in reality, digital learning will forever change, so we should always be re-evaluating our practice.

  • Staff confidence in delivering digital learning is now rated 4/5 for 84% of staff
  • Staff feel they are not at “attempt” but continually working around, develop, adapt and practice, using skills they have learnt.
  • 70% of staff said that Digital Literacy was now fully embedded within their subject.

Element Two: Student Surveys

The final element of the process was to speak to our main “stakeholders” the students. Where better to get our feedback about how we as teachers are doing than to ask our students. Asking a range of questions, a few are below;

  • What subjects have you enjoyed the most this term?
  • What piece of work have you used technology with which has been most enjoyable?
  • Do you prefer lessons that involve the use of technology?
  • If you were in charge of digital learning what would you implement?

I love the honesty of students, you find out so much, refreshing and mature when asked direct questions. They feel empowered to be able to support, what did it say?

  • Student enjoys being able to learn new skills to show off their knowledge.
  • Students feel they are more organised since introducing google classroom, they are more in control of revision materials, hand in dates and lesson tasks are clear.
  • Students enjoy having verbal feedback recorded as they can reflect on it again when they complete work.
  • Students feel there is less anxiety towards doing assessments as teachers are completing more quizzes and mini assessments.

The rubric allowed me to assess how well digital technology has been integrated into the schools teaching and learning, the main outcome is that students understood what they were being taught and that it was useful to their learning outcomes.

The rubric was also shared with staff before the learning walk to show what is being looked at. Transparency is key to being able to gain trust and to in turn be able to support staff.

Element Three: Student Portfolios or shared work

One of the things we asked students to do was share their favourite project and tell us why it was so engaging and fun. This was a great way to find out the skills they had learnt and also if they had been able to challenge themselves and their subject and even chose relevant software to complete tasks.

Top skills learnt by students from using digital technology,

Research, Independent learning and Creativity

with students feeling like having digital tools allowed them to blend subjects and learning helping them to achieve more.

How amazing!

So why ADAPT and ask what is going on?

I believe that if we do not acknowledge the achievements and learning which we as teachers have taken on in the last 12 months, then what have we achieved? We risk those staff, who before COVID would have ignored digital technology, simply put down the device, ignoring the impact it has had on reducing their mark load or how their consistent approach to formative assessment has strengthened their understanding of students knowledge gaps.

We must embrace the positive developments which it has had on our working systems, removing the things which we no longer need to waste time on, or those things as restrictions ease can be done in traditional senses.

Embedding digital learning fully, by understanding what is being enjoyed, what can be removed and what can be learnt from is an important step to being able to develop a digital balance. Where digital learning is meaningful and relevant.

Next Steps

    Looking at consistent use of quizzing apps in lessons so students achievement is not based on time or literacy
    Using less technology when it is not necessary (We are currently in a hybrid model) Students recognise that we don’t always need the device to complete tasks, so when this is the case, lets not.
    Ensuring that we don’t always give students an option of digital tool, some are swaying to “easy” when the tools could differentiate and support them to challenge themselves.

So where next?

We can see what is going well and areas to improve, in term three, we will focus as departments to use the rubric when considering using technology as part of a lesson or a project, the beginning stage embedding in the planning. Using all our digital tools to ADAPT and make sure it is worthwhile, relevant and supports learning.

Technology for learning is not a gimmick, we should be making sure it is fit for purpose, it continually develops, so do we. Keep the momentum going by acknowledging how far you have come.

The Digital Strategy: Part Two – Formative Assesment Tools

Those of you who have lead digital strategies in schools pre-covid will know that having a hook that will engage and develop trust in colleagues is fundamental to the strategy’s success.

Needing quick wins is why part two of my strategy is to find formative assessment tools which work for your school.

Here is why:

We already assess, so make it simple. Teaching should not be an uphill struggle.

Every teacher will be assessing students in subjects in a range of ways, likely one is paper-based or requires additional time after to mark. Collating grades can be stored and compared (key especially for subject specialists when a quiz may show anomalies across a whole cohort, as well as a class).

One of the component reasons why we need to do the formative assessment is to be able to make a judgment on our lesson and adapt, going back and filling in knowledge gaps or moving forwards.

We also use it to understand smaller parts of knowledge, broken down into smaller chunks can allow students time to process concepts. What do you already know? What do I want you to understand and apply to a topic or across the curriculum? Answering similar questions across the topic allows students to develop information in their long term memory. Supporting the development of those students.

The benefit to the teacher, you do not need to mark the work. Review it. I love Kahoots ability to inform you across an assessment which questions a group found hard, which students need support? Quizzes, for instance, also allows you to then share the outcomes with parents.

Formative assessment, quickly, can give an understanding of students ability, understanding, knowledge and most important, gaps in both student and class understanding.

And the wonderful thing is, the more informed we are, the better the teaching, the less time lost, the time we gain back from marking work can be put into, well I can think of several areas linking to Teacher-Wellbeing,

but …

we can also allow ourselves time to consider the student in front of us;

why do they not understand?

What is the barrier?

How can we help?

How can we engage?

The students I have reviewed also say that the more we complete short quiz-style tests, the less anxious they become about completing “tests”. They are used to a range of question styles, time frames and limits.

We can stretch and challenge students; we can allow them to reach their potential!

Tips:

  • Don’t use too many different tools in one subject; this can overwhelm, confuse and remove the positives. You need solid data which you can use to inform you.
  • Time-sensitive questions are great for building excitement and engagement, but they are not for everyone. Make sure you do assessments where every child has the time to think. Quickfire questions can cause incorrect answers, students who are less confident readers may struggle, and students often don’t fully take in the question clicking fast and unsure.
  • Try and find a tool that links to your learning portfolios (if you have them); this will make storage of your data much easier if you can “connect” your classroom and import the data into your mark book.

The Hakuna Matata Effect

Yes, inspired by the brilliant re-make of The Lion King, but I couldnt help thinking whist I was watching it that more of us should take on board the “Hakuna Matata” this academic year.

We try to build resilience, we tell students to embrace faliure, but how many of us really show our students that it is ok?

Having now been in m new role for 7 weeks I have been trying to embed this culture across the school in relation to educational technology.

So Hakuna Matata,

“it means no worries”

The Lion King

This really should be the way we all look at embracing the introduction of EdTech in the classroom. The resilience which we are supporting our students to develop should also be developed more by us. Things do not always go right first time, but as I am sure we are all aware, failure is part of the road to success!

We have re-distributed our iPad devices across the junior school, to trial how a 1:3 device approach would work

(We had previously had devices in trolley’s across the school which would be booked out. Frustrations occur when staff began a project only to find they could not re-book them at the right times.)

With negotiation and willingness to try things in a new way, we now have 40 devices per year group.

To support this, staff have been provided resources which can help them to embed positive and meaningful device use in the classroom, focusing on their learning objectives and not on a range of apps. Thus allowing learning to take place as a whole group as we are not using devices as a “Golden Time”. For example, an empty session, where there is little to no impact as the focus is not clear.

Above is the current year 3 project template. We have seen some brilliant work this week from year 3 including some brilliant success stories alread, one year 3 teacher sent me this along with a piece of work which said…

“look what one of my lower ability children in did English earlier where they were identifying the persuasive devices used in speech. It was awesome! The child was one of the first to finish & I was completely blown away! 😁”

Year 3 Teacher

When students are engaged in meaningful use of technology they can really get excited and, with the example above, feel empowered successful learners! It is small steps, but thats a good approach, as the saying goes, Rome wasnt build in a day.

But… The Hakuna Matata approach with little gems of success like this will spread across our school. This teacher dared to do it and look at the success in one day, one week, just imagine the impact of a term or a year.

The same teacher also said the students commented on how their “Screen Time” must be much higher this week because of the iPad devices being in class, to which they considered how much more meaningful their use had been. They then were able to reflect upon all the fantastic things they had learnt how to do!

#DigitalCitizenship #TechControl #DigitalAwareness

Other year groups are taking a different approach. Year 4 as an example are looking at a guided reading project and are using a booklet which I found from another ADE on Twitter @BenHadenEDU (who if you don’t follow, you really should!)

Having these scaffolded resources are really helping to get staff on board and enabelling them to take more risks with other elements of the iPad device like the Camera and fun apps like Clips.

Next week we launch a two-week campaign to “count the ways…” with our focus being on the Camera tools. I look forward to sharing with you all the ways our students and staff have been using their Camera tools.

For now, our focus will be to continue to build our communities strength with the Hakuna Matata Effect!

Why don’t you give it a go to?

Top tips for the long journey home…

Adobe Spark

Meaningful Screen time, for those times when a screen is a great option!

This summer, my family and I travelled from Nottingham to St. Ives (Cornwall not Nr. Cambridge) 322 Miles to be exact.

A place we have been over and again. Somewhere which for us feels very relaxing and has so much to explore, devices down, for little peoples feet as well as our big feet. Lots of climbing, surfing, walking not to mention a lot of pasties and fish and chips!

Over the week we did very well, the boys had about an hour a day , controlled by our Family Sharing – Screen Time option in my iPhone settings.

We adapted these settings before going away, the iPad down time is set to lock the iPad until 8am. Combatting the desire for the boys to wake up early to play games at the weekend

(we have a rule during term time, devices are only used for education in the week and the weekend limited, monitored “Free play”)

But the summer is different, rules can go out of the window.

So screen time normally in the morning whilst we lazed around and pondered what to do that day, I decided that after dinner I would teach the boys card games, with what my youngest son calls “Real Life Cards”, it was a big part of my growing up and they were easy to take everywhere with us.

So, where am I going with this?

The day we left was a Friday, those of you who have holidayed in England like this will know, Friday and Saturday are leaving and arrival days. If you don’t get out quick, it doubles the journey home.

This was one of those, because our 5 and a 1/2 hour journey just became 9 and a 1/2 hours … OH DEAR!

Now this could have been a frustrating time where we threw the rules out, but instead we tried some things which actually allowed the very slow journey very fun and interactive. All Wifi Free! (You may airdrop images you have taken from your device to theirs, again no WIFI)

So here are my Top Tips for the iPad on your journey home:

  1. Collect images from your holiday, create using the MarkUp tool which is in the photos and add images and captions to the photos, e.g. “What I was really thinking?” or allowing animals in the image to come to life as a character e.g “He thinks I like bread, I am after his ice-cream”
  2. Create a Clips Video of all of the things which happened. If your children are older, they might put them chronologically. Using Clips they can caption, add emojis and music.
  3. Compose music which captures a mood from something you did. You could take turns and try and guess what part of the holiday they are thinking of with the style of music.
  4. A simple one can be using Notes and adding a Sketch, they can draw on it, or upping the game a little you could play hangman or pictionary with them. This will support literacy skills as well.
  5. Create a Photo Book using Pages, they can use a template and add videos, thoughts, names of people they have met and places they went too. This is a great one for children who are going to be going back to school and asked what they did for their summer. By exporting the final version as an EPub they can share their summer with others, anywhere!
  6. Use Photo to doodle each other, getting a bit competitive challenge them to add elements to an image using the MarkUp Draw tools.
  7. Create an Animation of a place or something they did using Keynote. This one can be quite tricky, or very simple. But getting them to re-tell the story is a great way to hold onto their memories. They can even add a voice recording to tell people where it is and why it was their favourite.
  8. Finally, this was is a little more tricky… they can use the new green screen feature on iMovie, capture an image of themselves, add a green bubble on MarkUp in photos. Add a video of something they had done, along with their image into iMovie to make a worm hole… see what is going on in their memory bank.

I hope you have safe travels, remember… #EveryoneCanCreate

Overflowing with #EdTech Enthusiasm

Enthusiasm is infectious, but Education Technology should empower and support your classroom environment

Writing this I would like to openly admit to being someone who gets very excited about EdTech and new apps, but who has also seen the impact of both sides of this coin. I have learnt along my travels, to consider the depth before use

I have been lucky enough to work with educators from a range of disciplines at International schools for middle and higher education (11-19yrs). 

As a trainer I have some very varied weeks. If we all reflect on the education institutes we work in and for, you can imagine the breath of experience and knowledge for pedagogy as well as their subject.

It has been an inspiring and reflective.

Training others in Education Technology it can be very difficult to get the room on your side.  For me, this is something I enjoy, in fact changing mindsets is one of my favourite tasks when it comes to delivering training, as this to me is real progress.

When walking into situations where change is needed but blocked, there is no real amount of preparation you can have.  Knowing your resources is very important, but above all, reading the room is the best skill you can have to give those educators.  Just like when teaching your own students, developing the work to suit the needs of those in front of you is your most important super power. 

So, what does all of this boil down to? Why does it come under the “Overflowing” heading you might ask?

The biggest part which I find as a barrier, not only to student progess, but also their own progress is the sheer volume of apps and programmes which are being used.  Sadly, it is not just in the school I am reflecting upon, its is across a range of institutes, across, I would assume the world.

A shiny new app comes along and people want to use it. Which is understandable. We are sold the educational reasons for using it and are now inspired… Please do not get me wrong, this is wonderful that we can see the benefit of using technology in the classroom. 

But imagine this… 

Every teacher in your institute asks the same thing, asking for one or maybe two brilliant apps which we cannot live without. 

Now, imagine the student in your classroom, who has come to your lesson, perhaps it is the third or fourth lesson of the day.  

To them, this is the fifth or sixth new application or programme they have used already.  How much of the actual learning are they able to take in, around remembering what to do, where to login and how to use the tools?

The answer is, not a lot.  

Now, if in addition to this you are talking to your students in a non-native language, very common in lots of schools not just international schools, then they are also trying to de-code all of the terminology you need them to know for your subject.

So how do we over come this? Keep it simple.

What do students need to know? How to use EdTech which will help them succeed in lesson, but also in their future 

What is the best way to do this?

Use programmes native to the device the students use. Apps can be here today, gone tomorrow, however Numbers, Keynote and Pages have been around since iWork was launched in 2005, only getting better and more advanced in their ability.   Students need transferable skills, things which will hold relevance to their daily lives now and also in the future.

I am not saying all apps are irrelevant, they defiantly are not. However, complimenting a core understanding of one range of software, develops a mastery level for students (and educators) will allow learning to happen in your classroom every day, with ease.

Embedding some core apps to support assessment or theory can still happen, but slowly allowing everyone to have confidence.  Especially if EdTech is new to your classroom. It also allows you to share information quickly and easily with one another as well as your students.

How can this be instilled?

  1. Chose your software 
  2. Train all staff in the school on that specific platform, have non negotiable elements with staff to ensure it is being used and implemented effectively. 
  3. Have core “whole school apps” things which can help more than one department or subject area 
  4. Get leadership to use the same platforms – consistency and modelling of the systems by leadership show staff that you are working together 
  5. Have a whole school ethos about meaninful EdTech

Personal recommendations would be Apple, once you have the device, all you need is in there. I could teach all elements of learning in a lesson using the iPad native software alone, it allows for so much development and creativity.

Apple have guides on how to develop curriculums, as well as rubrics.  They even support CPD within their #AppleTeacher program, relevant to all staff in your school, not just the educators. https://www.apple.com/ae/education/apple-teacher/

in addition:

  • You are Embedding real-world skills into students
  • Apple platform allows for creativity within all subjects #EveryoneCanCreate
  • Ability to design simple work flows for staff
  • Assessment tracking (Integrated very well with external apps via SchoolWork)
  • Students work portfolios; In Pages, Number or Keynote #ElementsOfLearning 
  • SchoolWork you can send documents and assignments to students with deadlines creating a diary for the student which allows you to track progress
  • Clips or iMovie can allow collation of evidence 
  • Sketch and annotation avaliable on all their software 

For more information click on the following links:

https://www.apple.com/ae/everyone-can-code/

https://www.apple.com/ae/education/everyone-can-create/

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/elements-of-learning/id1367981260?mt=11

The cornerstone’s of my working Classroom

Many teachers will be in a similar position to me when it comes to working their classroom out and being able to support each child with everything they need.

Today I have felt quite reflective of this fact when I received my update from Grammarly, it seems to help me more than I could ever have imagined.  This wonderful app is on all of my devices. So why is this so important. Well, it is two-fold:

Firstly, I am dyslexic, I struggled a lot as a child to ensure that my work was as it should be, more often than not being told to read “What was on the line and not what I Thought was there”, which is quite hard when everything has a habit of jumping around.  To me, the digital technology which we empower our classrooms with every day holds such importance to all pupils, but perhaps specifically to those who struggle to access everything as easily as our most able pupils. Having a learning difficulty doesn’t mean that our students are not as capable, we just need to support them to be the best they can be, regardless.

Secondly, What I love about Grammarly is how it simply works in the background helping us to correct our spelling and our grammar.  But more than this, unlike our normal spell checking facilities, it tells us what the error is and explains it.  How powerful to a child that without fear of failure they can learn from their device.  Yes, some may say that we are reliant on such things, but in a classroom, it can empower a child to have more confidence in their writing. In everyday life, I hope we can all agree that actually, it is a better way to be also given the reason why it is wrong and not just scroll down a few words, which more often than not are actually inaccurate.

This week I have been taking time in my classroom to ensure that all my students have the correct language settings. We are an international school with 72 different nationalities, we are very proud to be able to support such a wide variety of Nationalities.  Something as simple as Keyboard settings on the iPad can really make a difference to a child.  We ensure that pupils have the following as a core; English (United Kingdom) as we are a British Curriculum school, Arabic, French (France), Emoji (Who can live without it) and then the students Mother Tongue or Native Language. For a child beginning their journey in a new country, this can allow them to be able to use their device to its maximum and be supportive to their learning.  Many pupils are learning English as they go through their day at school, going home and speaking once again in their mother tongue. Allowing them to be able to use their native language and translate elements in non-core lessons helps them to access our curriculum.

My other cornerstone’s include google translateas a teacher I have just prepared some resources for my lessons next week, but knowing my classes have a range of different languages, and that some students are so very new to speaking and reading English, I have translated my document.  I have just changed 10 documents into alternative languages for pupils to be able to clearly access my assessment for next week, it took less than 2 minutes.  The students in my class are so capable, I am in awe that they can pick up a language so quickly, I have no intention of disadvantaging them by giving them a worksheet they cannot access. In the same way, I have my differentiated sheets, different questions to push and pull all my student’s abilities.  My assessments get pinged out to them via AirDrop through AppleClassroomSo no worry about printing or wasting them, I have groups set up within classes, ready to select for AirDropping to them all at the touch of a button.  The best part is none of them think to question if their sheet is different from another’s. Students can have both copies or just one (English and Native).

To allow a child to access and succeed for me overall is the most important part of my teaching.  Pupils all have the google translate app, as students become more confident in their language learning they can look to this for difficult terminology, small sentence translations.  But we shouldn’t in such an advanced digital world have to allow a child to feel isolated from their peers due to languages or learning difficulties. Let’s empower.

Top tips:

  • Add Grammarly to your school’s devices (we use the free version, you can also buy a paid package)
  • Get the google translate app on your devices
  • Utilise Apple Classroom, share documents with specific pupil groups to differentiate your lesson
  • Check your pupils have the keyboards to access their curriculum

The first week back is like spinning sugar

If you have ever seen or tried to spin sugar, you will know it looks tricky and confusing.  The sugar layers over and over again. Like spinning sugar, when we begin in September we have ideas of grandeur which we expect to be instant but it takes time to develop, shape and moulds it to our liking.  Just like the information we receive as teachers at the beginning of the term.

If you are new to a school, the layers of information can feel overwhelming and when you are in the thick of it, it can sometimes feel like it won’t ever make sense, or turn out the way you want or had hoped. There is so much to learn, so many things to take in and most importantly, there are many little faces which stare at you waiting to be inspired by your wisdom.

With this in mind, I thought it would be the perfect time to give my top three apps for helping you navigate yourself in those first few weeks.

(NB: I work in an apple 1:1 device school, so these are tailored to the iPad, although I am sure there are other similar options available on the Android alternatives.) 

Apple Classroomthis brilliant app from Apple allows you to support and navigate your pupils around a meaningful lesson using technology.  In addition, it is a great way of ensuring students are always on task and behaving.  Apple Classroom allows you to navigate (and lock) pupils into apps which are on their devices for them to be able to complete specific tasks.  You can take them to web pages via the app, directing them to websites which you have stored in your favourites, this allows you to find suitable research material, especially for those in the lower year groups or at a primary age. It allows you to control all, or individual iPads ensuring all students are listening and not still using their device when you are expecting them to be listening.  One of my favourite elements, however, is the grouping options. As teachers, we have very mixed ability groups.  I think this is true to almost every school around the world, Apple Classroom allows you easily to separate pupils into groups, where you can then personalise the learning for those pupils and ensure that their needs are being met, the great thing, none of the other pupils even need to know that worksheet or question paper is different. The app also allows airdropping to the whole class in one touch, screen sharing, mirroring without logging in and muting of sound if so required.

In addition to those elements is also gives you a great rundown of the student’s device usage, at the end of the lesson, you can see second by second what they did when they were in your class.

Tip: If you have an apple school management system, lock their Bluetooth on. 

Kahoot

Kahoot is not a new app, however, it is one which at our school we use frequently. Why? because it allows us to capture data snapshots easily.  Students love the challenge of a Kahoot, it engages them all in active learning but also doesn’t humiliate those who are unsure or unlikely to speak out in a hand up exercise. If they get it wrong, they can hide their screen and only you and they know overall scores.

The great thing about Kahoot is you can create your own, edit something already created or even borrow someones if it is suitable for the task.  At our school, we use these for new topics, keyword consolidation, tracking understanding in a lesson and even baseline testing in some subjects where there is no standardised test.  Kahoot happily allows you to download the data for the class and this can influence your next lesson planning, your student tracking or just be a good formative assessment task. Kahoot also allows a “Ghost Mode” so you can do the same Kahoot at the end of the lesson to show progress in their understanding. It frees up teacher time from marking mini tests as it is all completed for you which can be very helpful, especially when you are teaching a range of classes or a range of subjects to one class.

Tip: Give pupils a time limit to log in, ensuring they pupil their correct name (tracking).  You can even allow the first people to be listening to put an emoji at the end of their name to encourage them to get on task as quickly as possible. 

Camera, Camera Roll & Markup Tool. 

I realise that there are three elements to this one, however, I find this is the most useful tool you have on the iPad. It can be a great get to know you activity, you can have conversations about sharing information but as a tool, it can allow you to use something very simple, and free, to create a really interesting and meaningful lesson.

With the updates to the iPads, pupils can now edit and draw or write (text and cursive) onto their iPad.  It could be a photograph of an object, linking to Maths, English, Science or any subject. A stimulus.  Pupils writing words, ideas, comments onto and then sharing with others via AirDrop. This could be placed into their Notes app as a digital workbook of ideas and research.  You might want pupils to photograph their own work, they could share this with another pupil and they comment on the work, allowing collaboration of ideas with their classmates and getting that valuable peer-to-peer assessment and feedback.

Tip: If you teach students to know how to use the Mark-Up tool on their Photos they will be able to use it in all of their other Apple Programmes. Making other lessons and learning easier to manage as they already have the prepared skills. 

My final Tip would be to use the camera to photograph your students in their seating plans.  At the beginning of the year, if you teach lots of new pupils, it can be a great way to get to know your students faster.  If like me you teach upwards for 400 Students it helps to remember those names. We all know knowing their names can make such a difference to your student’s lives.  Feeling empowered, special and remembered, especially if they are new to the school. (NB: I use my school iPad and not a personal device – this is for my classroom management only and I do not share the images.)

I hope that some of these apps and tips can be helpful to you, guiding your spun sugar to create beautifully crafted lessons.

Digital Break Out – The Isles Need YOU!

With everything we do in schools now, there is no better way to get pupils to understand the concepts than to link it back to everyday life.  I am a very hands-on learner.  I really do have to be emersed in the physical making and doing, to understand it.

So with that in mind, I try to ensure that all learning styles are given the opportunity to excel, Differentiation I will save for another blog because every child is not like me.

I currently teach coding to KS2 we touch upon a range of different elements of coding, now we are in our third term my pupils are confidently coding a range of different robotic systems.  All with the topical insight about why that specific system may have been developed. We discuss how @Sphero could be similar to a driverless vehicle, how @Parrot Drones are used in tracking down sources of water, heat and areas which we cannot physically, or safely reach.  We don our space imaginary space suits and blast off to Mars with @LEGOEducationUK, considering why we cannot land on Mars or even why we would want to?

The realistic approach to teaching and learning is key to the development and understanding of each child. We can cover all learning styles when we make it real.  Why do we need to know these things, if there isn’t a credible reason to do so.  With a future of uncertain job structures, our pupils need to learn so many skills to enable them to be adaptable.

Coding is such an amazing way of being able to get them to become more adaptable to ever-changing circumstances. Keeping pupils on their toes, they never know what my classroom may morph into when they step through the door.  What they do know is, I will always be able to link everything they do to a reason and their topic.

So how do we go wider and get the whole school to collaborate under these changing circumstances? Get pupils to see the bigger picture?

Take a look at the link below:

Save the Isles

For a whole afternoon, we had verticle style learning, house teams, with a range of scenarios and pupil ability.  Pupils were pushed out of their comfort zone, using all of their coding and programming knowledge they worked as teams to save stranded villagers on the islands, find sources of water and navigate around areas of natural disaster.  It was wonderful to watch as they discussed and negotiated, using critical thinking and problem-solving skills. I even threw an @Kahoot in there for pupils to keep them on their toes.

The most important part, the pupils enjoyed it.  They understood how their technology, which quite often is taken for granted, really can begin to solve larger problems.

I cannot wait for the next one!