OLD WAYS WON’T OPEN NEW DOORS

As half term approaches and the usual stresses and strains appear in the school; planning, marking, assessment, targets, tracking, intervention … as well as the normal day to day pastoral issues, which never cease to amaze me, the vast range of things which could fall under this umbrella.  I have had a very reflective week.

Mid-way through this week was CPD, a brilliant training session from The Applied and Behavioral Training Institute,  which made me giggle a little inside at how similar my role in school is to what the trainer in front of us, talking about behaviour management, was trying to tell us.

It was all about strategies, which most of us have been taught during teacher training year, but the refresher and some new tips were helpful in such a busy week.  As it is our role to support our students and to endeavour to keep trying, stay strong when learned habits from individual students continue to return.

So why was this funny? Across the year I deliver CPD, have drop-in sessions for staff and try my best to support them in new technologies, new technologies which I hope will help ease the strains of their role.  I am positive that the digital elements we embed in our curriculum are always meaningful and well used.  But when we first begin to use them, just like behaviour management strategies, we find it hard, we find elements difficult and we are impelled to believe that the best way, is the way we did it before.  Just like behaviour management is hard to keep doing, it can be hard to do new things when there feels like there already is such a lot to do.

Technology has, and always will create things to make our lives easier. That is one of the wonderful things about it.  But, perseverance is key, just like the student in your class who shouts out or needs a little more attention for whatever reason, with continued practice, we can support them to be the best they can be.  Just like with continued use, we can use the right technologies to support our working balance, enhancing engagement of our 21st-century learners whilst utilizing programs and software which take the strain of a job which can be relentless. Let us not switch off because it feels too complicated or hard.

I found a brilliant quote today which said,

“I am yet to have a student tell me they can’t use technology in class because they haven’t had professional development on it”

(Unknown)

Teachers are lifelong learners, a trait we should instill in all the students we teach.

Tips:

Nearpod is brilliant for not only engaging learners but also for creating tests which mark themselves.  Using the ‘Quiz’ function you can make an exam or multiple choice test which learners can complete at their own pace.

Showbie, an online paperless classroom.  Being a teacher of a digital subject it is so helpful to be able to collate the work of all of my KS2 classes.  They upload work, images and reflect, from there I am able to give individual feedback to students, personalising their learning. Breaking down lessons into curriculum strands, WALT and WILF’s are there and can be accessed by pupils at any time.  Pre-planning my lessons options is really helpful as well, allowing me to hide elements from classes until they need them.

 

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!

 

They know too much…Or do they?

So, if you have read my blog so far you will know that I am an accidental primary IT and computing teacher. 

When I was first asked to lead the computing department, I had no real idea of what to expect.  It is a growing school [EXCITING], but also one of the main objectives is to be the leading technology school in the UAE [SCARY]. Potentially a very big and important job.

Having always thought of myself as a teacher who used technology.  I am willing to try new devices and apps in my lessons, which would support the learning, I decided it couldn’t hurt to try leading a new area of the curriculum. So over the summer, I immersed myself into books, on my iPad, reading a range of different books from basic curriculum to embedding ICT across the primary curriculum. 

Why? mainly due to my fear that I wouldn’t know how to teach computing in our new digital age, or our fourth industrial revolution (my new favorite term). 

I remember talking to a friend who is in charge of computing for their primary curriculum and he questioned why I was so worried? I had been a teacher for a long time, and in the end as long as you know your curriculum, teaching it would come easily, surely?

Despite the reassurance I kept reading and making notes and by the end of summer I had so many ideas and wanted to share so much with the new collegues at school.  As well as wanting to be at least one step ahead of our pupils who “know so much about technology”.  I think I could have burst with the amount of things which I now knew.

Did it help, well yes, in some ways I felt ready and empowered me to teach a range of different class based activities.  But when it came to actually starting, I found that I was trying to fit far too much in to my lessons, and pupils were unable to successfully complete activities.

Then came the lightbulb moment: There really is such a thing as too many applications.  It really took me a few months to fully get my head around it.  In fact, it was only after attending my first EduTech Conference in Dubai that I clicked. My realisation came at much delight to my principal! Less is definitely more, but now was the job to prove that to others.  I think as teacher we worry that we need to keep pupils interested in lots of new things, which is where the problems can occur.

More recently, I was listening to a fantastic episode on @PodcastEdTech where the brilliant point was made that people assume that children know so much about apps and technology, but in reality, they do not.  They know a really small amount, and mainly only about things which they have been exposed to.

Now in my classroom, I try not to use too many different apps with the pupils at once. As a school one of our main priorities is to focus in on specific apps which would be used and mastered, not only by pupils but by our staff as well.  So this comment really resinated with me.  We are all so worried about how “tech savvy” pupils are, but we forget that they are only as good as we allow them to be.

If we as teachers focused on ensuring pupils were masters in apps and not just skimming from the top, progress and skills development would be much deeper.

So over this academic year we have begun to be more focused in our expectations of using apps.  We are a 1-1 device school, so we are very lucky to always have the technology available. But instead of all using different applications and clouding pupils with information overload.  We have been training teachers to become Apple Teachers.  Getting to grips with a range of brilliant technology which they already have just in their hands all the time. From there we also have a set of core apps. Nearpod, Explain Everything and Book Creator.  Three apps which allow us to flip the learning, allow for Peer and self assessment as well as personal learning. All of which allow us to create digital portfolios which we can show our learners progress. 

The more we use them, the better our pupils become at being able to focus on the learning outcome and less on the idea that they are using a device. We get pupils to upload work to showbie at the end of lessons, or projects for verbal feedback.  As we grow, we aim to be better at facilitating and using the right technology which allows learning to happen without gimmicks.

As we grow as a digital school, so will our pupils. We are already planning, as much as we can in our digital world for our KS3 and 4 pupils entering next academic year.  To ensure that they are equipped with the right tools to be employed in the fourth industrial era.