Category: Tech


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One thing that was central to this week with Apple was that storytelling is a powerful tool. Many amazing blog posts have come out over the last couple of days reviewing people’s experiences of their week. Each one talks of the authors personal journey.

So for my posts is this last reflection the end? Or just a set up to a series of sequels?

One of the main things I learnt personally this week is that I can make a difference, that the work I do does matter and it is worth keeping on trying to develop others in its use.
There are many times it feels as though I am pushing against brick walls or that people think its just a fad, however, this week I have regrouped my passion and realised it is what effects the students that is important.

So long as students are at the heart if everything I do (and they are) then it is more than worth trying to change hearts and minds. In speaking to a lot of people that have the set up in their schools that I would love to have in mine, the main feedback I got was that I was doing great things and to carry on.

This sort of support and encouragement is so powerful and has totally recharged me for “the sequel” to me journey. In the words of Duarte founder, Nancy Duarte, in my story the students are the hero of the piece, I am just the old sage that offered support.

Thank you Apple, all of the ADEs I met and especially my PLN for making me see my worth, it will make a difference when I feel I am getting nowhere.

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Over the last few years my passion for digital innovation may have made some people think that it was all about the technology.

This is far from the case

In my quest to look at how technology can work in schools, it has always been deeply rooted in teaching and learning. Others have made it much more eloquent and have linked it to educational research but I try to keep it simple.

New technologies enhance teaching and learning. Fact!

When implementing any change in my classroom the impact on students is always at the heart of anything I do. This is critical as it is not about my passion for using digital tech but about how it can inspire students to learn in their own way. To engage them in the curriculum and to ensure they want to continue learning outside the classroom.

Lots of schools have implemented 1:1 programmes and not necessarily thought about the teaching and learning that goes with it. Examples of GREAT practice can be seen @chepstowschool and @clevedonschool, both have the Teaching and Learning at the heart of what they do and I am sure there are many others in this same mould.

Why is this important?

Simply because students need to see that these changes in approach are being done to support them, staff need to buy in to something that shows that it makes a difference and parents need to see that it is not just a gimmick.

I spent today at the Frog conference, I am openly a sceptic about VLE’s as they were introduced poorly to me so I had no buy in. I did see today that they had huge potential, in the right context, if managed correctly and if left to be used as teachers feel it helps them. More than that though I saw today that if you start with teaching and learning and then use the tech to enhance it, then it is harder to resist.

I feel at times that I get seen as ‘the guy who wants us all to have iPads’ though this is mostly true, the reason behind why I want them is not always seen.

As a student myself I questioned the relevance of why I was learning certain things. Students today do that all the time. Yet do we always give them a legitimate reason? Passing an exam by the way is not good enough. I try to teach students in a way that they can see why they need to know it. Co constructing learning to create links to the real world outside the classroom. This is what I endeavour to pass on to staff in school. That getting students engaged in the learning, by bringing THEIR world into the classroom, will ultimately result in them progressing further. It is not enough to just teach the curriculum, it will not inspire every student. Teach it in a way that engages them, allows creativity and speaks their language and see the difference it makes.

This is where the tech comes in.

To create a world class educational experience the technology allows the teaching and learning strategies to be enhanced and enriched, giving learners a choice of ways to create learning, to demonstrate knowledge and a greater audience than just their teacher.

In my classroom I use technology to help students progress by giving feedback that can be accessed online to help at home, I give access to reading, videos and audio for students to review and reflect on in their own time. I create opportunities for students to be creative with their presentation of knowledge, in a way that suits their learning choices. I give them a broader audience through the use of blogs or creating apps. Basically I try to move my teaching to meet their needs and to bring their world into school.

Examples include
Making apps
Podcasting
Creating videos
Blogging
Video analysis
Creating ebooks

In conclusion, to enhance teaching and learning and to engage students, digital technology can be used as a tool to help achieve it. Whatever way you choose to make a difference, think about your context, consult the students, inspire the staff and make things relevant, but remember

Do nothing, convince yourself that no change is needed, and the danger is that things will stagnate.

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Today saw the first ever City Academy Teachmeet for all staff.  I decided to hijack a staff meeting to really put across all of the great things that are going on at school.

For the last two years I have been looking at digital innovation in teaching and learning and in that time have been able to first of all impact on my own curriculum area of Health and Expression and then further across the school.  This has largely been done through bombarding staff with emails, tweets, blogs and more recently the teaching and learning newsletter.

Last term I met with our SLT in charge of T&L and asked for some time to present what I had done to the whole school, but to show real impact, get those that I had impacted on to spread what impact it has had in their lessons.

From a Deputy Curriculum Leader position I think people do not expect you to do whole school impact work but in a climate of limited movement in job positions I felt it was important to look beyond my job title and do something strategic and with high impact.  My personal CPD this year has been to develop myself as a practitioner who has whole school impact from a very strategic point of view.  Today was a bit of a signposting moment to highlight the progress I was making in the journey and also to continue spreading the message about digital innovation.

Now I did not expect all staff to instantly jump on board and embrace everything that was being presented but the initial feedback has been really positive and I did end the session asking for any queries to come my way so we could address staff concerns.

What I really enjoyed about the session was hearing staff talk about the things they had been introduced to but then had made them their own and grown them.  This to me really highlighted the impact I had, not merely copying something I had introduced them to but to really personalise it in their lessons to meet their students needs.  To be honest I felt quite proud.

When looking at CPD I always feel it is important for everyone to get something out of it, not just the audience.  In this case the audience were made aware of simple things they could do in their teaching straight away, the presenters had the opportunity to share their good practice and develop themselves as leaders to the whole school and for me, I have reinforced to myself that I can definitely lead on whole school strategies, develop these and then share the vision to the whole school body.  This is just the beginning of a movement to empower and develop staff confidence in their own practice and sharing it with others, as well as further developing digital innovation at the City Academy Bristol

 

The paperless classroom

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Over the last two years i have tried to reduce the amount of paper that I deal with on a daily basis.  This in part is due to organisation but more importantly to encourage learners to work better away from school.

I have looked at several different methods to achieve this, from Evernote to Dropbox, finally resulting in using Edmodo and Google Drive.

Google Drive gave me a platform for tracking progress and providing feedback to students in a digital way, so that work could be accessed anywhere, I have blogged on this before (link).  What Google Drive also offers is a variety of ways to interact with students.  You can comment on their work, directly annotating on the work and also add voice comments which opens a whole new world of options when working with students with different needs.

Though Google Drive gave a wealth of improvements to the course, it still was a bit messy and i needed something to combine it all in to one place, somewhere where all students could access their work, communicate with me and find extra resources.

Enter Edmodo.  This has a whole range of options to really build a platform for interacting with students.  For the paperless classroom it really gives a central place to file all of the evidence created.  The real beauty of Edmodo is that it links in really simply with everything i had done in Google drive.  In the library section of Edmodo there is an option to link your Google Docs, this gives access to everything in Google Drive and with a simple click it can be shared with your class.

Now students are encouraged to use Google docs to create work, it leads to better collaboration and i can give ongoing feedback to inform progression.  From a staff point of view, all of the tracking and feedback sheets can be shared internally through Edmodo, all of the coursework is stored in one place, I can simply track who has or hasn’t submitted work.

Now There is no real need for paper.  Students can create their work in whatever way they want, Videos uploaded via a link, Documents via Google Drive, Podcasts even their own apps via iBuildapp.  I can mark their work, give brief ongoing feedback on the work on Google Drive and in the comments section on Edmodo.  Detailed feedback (which BTEC require) on Google Drive.  I can then also track ongoing progress, modular and overall.  Not only is the course now paperless it also encourages independent learning and students to work in a productive manner when away from school

Joined up thinking?????

So, I have had a bit of time recently, left alone with my thoughts, to think about what I have done over the last couple of years.  To say I am a reflective person is an understatement, at times it is great, but can cause me to over analyse things.

Hopefully this reflection will be constructive and lead to a real transformation in my teaching.

In my drive to better myself and develop skills in areas that I need to improve I have taken a huge interest in Teaching and Learning.  Using twitter, blogs, attending and presenting at teachmeets and generally reading more than I have ever done before.

It has occurred to me that my passion for digital technology and teaching and learning are not always joined up enough and they need to be in order to really change what happens in schools.

So to start with the iPads and iPods, I think by now it is clear to most that these devices can have an impact in the classroom and in many ways.  Mark Anderson (@ictevangelist) opened my eyes to the fact that it is not about just changing how we do things but to really impact on what we do.  (See his posts on SAMR). What I want to look into now is how the whole concept of school can be changed to allow students to learn in their own way, to extend their study how they see fit and to become true independant learners.

This is where I think digital tech and new pedagogies really come in.  iTunes U, iBooks  and Edmodo are just some tools that can really help to redefine how we approach the teaching and learning progress.  I am already seeing huge developments in increased distance learning opportunities but the real impact will be when students are creating content that can then be used to help teach others.  In this way they can see the relevance of what they are learning and see the benefit it brings to others.

I would like to think that in the same way that I have self taught about digital tech, the same approach can be used with students.  Not just a syllabus that needs to be recalled in exams or regurgitated in coursework but a real opportunity to create something with long lasting impact.

How this can be facilitated will be where I will focus my ongoing efforts.  Looking at curriculums, project based learning, digital technology etc and how it can be used to create a different approach to learning.  Students that have timetabled lessons for face to face interaction, to share ideas and what they have learnt, to develop ideas and test out theories.  All the learning having taken place away from the classroom.  Digital tech is pivotal to this, to help with the communication and collaboration so that progress is constant and monitored.

I feel my PLN are going to have me asking them a lot of questions over the summer as I try to make more sense of this, but I know that as always, they will be there to help.

Recently the excellent Jon Tait @teamtait posted on twitter about a teaching and learning newsletter that he had created using Smore  www.smore.com.  This led to a lot of fellow tweachers looking to create a similar thing to help spread the message about teaching and learning to a greater audience.  Jon’s original post can be found here http://www.edutait.com/?p=296

I created my own in an effort to publicise some of the work I had been doing with iPads in the classroom but also to spread the message I was getting from twitter about loads of great ideas.  My first attempt is here https://smore.com/z14p

I started to then think about the application of this in students work.  Lots of teachmeets I have been to recently have had Digital Leaders focusing on death by powerpoint and it has got me thinking about ensuring I give students a range of ways to present work and be creative.

Smore is a really simple tool to use but allows the user to create nice leaflets with digital content quite easily.  The final product is very professional and should allow students to feel proud of what they have achieved.  It also has links to social networks which means that the work created can hit a much wider audience at the students choice.  I use it on my iPad and it is simple to create flyers.

Choosing a type

When you start a new flyer you get to choose a type.  This just gives you a template to follow to get you started.

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Once selected you then just simply edit the existing text to create your flyer.

From a students point of view this should help get them started but for the more able or creative you can start to create the outline in your own style.  By clicking on the + icon you get a wealth of options to upload media, text or links to websites.

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Uses in the classroom.

My intention is to start to share this with the students to give them a new tool to use in creating work.  In my BTEC class I will introduce it as a new tool for them to create their coursework.  As it is about creating flyers it is a relevant tool that can be used for promoting events or advertising products.

Students could use it to create revision guides for topics that they have covered and these could then be shared amongst the group.

Staff could create reading guides for different topics and again share them out so studnts have access to a wealth of reading.

English students could use it to do book reviews and include links to pictures or video to help others interpret the text.

Schools that have digital leaders in place could use this as a way of creating guides for others to use certain apps.

The caution as with all things is not to use it to death.  Where it works and has relevance it will have impact, over do it and its your new powerpoint.

If people have other applications for its use I would be really keen to hear about them.

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Last year I decided to apply to become an Apple Distinguished Educator.  I felt that there was so much that could be done with devices in education and wanted to see how I could develop it further.

The process involved writing about what I had done in my own practice and how I had helped to develop others use of iPads and iPods in their classrooms.  It also involved creating a video that highlighted these things.  It was great just to do the application as it really highlighted what I had done behind the scenes, things that a lot of people are probably not aware of.  Here is a link to my video.

Last week I received an email from Apple saying that I was successful.  They selected 250 people from Asia, The Middle East and Europe so it was a great honour to be part of this.  I now travel to Ireland in the Summer to meet the other ADE’s and take part in a training and orientation session.

I now have access to a whole wealth of knowledge and great practice from ADE’s around the world and will be producing my own and collaborative work about how mobile devices can really be used to develop teaching and learning.

More information on the programme can be found by following the link below.

http://www.apple.com/education/apple-distinguished-educator/

Reflections on #tmbrum

Last night I attended the brilliant teachmeet at John Henry Newman Catholic College.  It was a bit of a journey from South Wales but I was really keen to hear about the work people were doing on Co construction and student leadership.  I was not disappointed.

A great range of presentations that were both inspiring and extremely informative.

Kevin Bartle (@kevbartle) opened up with his keynote on the student trojan mice.  A great concept that discusses the need to create true student leadership in the classroom and not hand over leadership from a top down approach.  The key thing I took from it was the butterfly effect idea that starting of a small idea and allowing it to spread was a lot more powerful than telling people what to do.

In order for true leadership to happen it needed to be truly student led, in the classroom and beyond.

Darren Turner then followed this with a talk about culture and climate and how to facilitate change.  the key thing here for me was that too often we use check-lists to see what we are doing or not doing and if the tick goes in the box then we feel in some way that we have done a good job.  What we miss is whether we do that thing well, does it have an impact and actually bring about a change?  It was about this point there was a bit of honking and talk of geese, all relevant but definitely a ‘had to be there’ moment.  In order for change to happen you needed lots of positive feedback, this would then encourage people to continue in the direction they are travelling and even if there is some negative energy thrown from those that resist change, at east there is a dialogue to help assist the change.  the notion of encouragement through feedback was not just to students but also staff and with any change in culture it is needed in order to keep people wanting to make the extra discretionary effort.  The end quote from a sportsman really rang true about how you create a collective movement.

“We want the players(teachers and students) to be responsible for their own games, (actions) and for the decisions they take out on the pitch, (classroom) so that when we win (reach our goals), it’s not about the Captain (Principle) or the Coach (Senior Management Team)  The more responsibility and accountability taken by the players (staff and students) the healthier it is for the team (whole school)”

We then moved into a break out session where we discussed these concepts, this was really useful to just discuss what we think about student leadership and what it looks like.  made me realsie what sort of student leadership I currently do through the use of blogs and Edmodo.

On to the main event and the presentations

David Hyner spoke about memory stacking.  ironically i remember a lot of his presentation because it was fun and silly.  It was a presentation on how we can help our memories by making things fun and silly.  Easy stuff really.  We were asked about our memory and the hitting bit was where he spoke about how education almost breeds mediocrity.

Three things will help with memory as they impact on the amigdala, scary, silly and sexy (love)  If you make the things we teach memorable ten they will be remembered.  the use of memory stacking is a fairly simple process of imagining or drawing silly images.  It does work as he proved to all of us in the hall.

Ben Stanley @trilby spoke about creating apps in the classroom, I have done a bit of this through ibuildapp.com and it is part of a current project with my Y10 BTEC class in Sport.  he demonstrated the use of app creator apps to help storyboards of what an app might look like.  Simply sketching things out and then using the app to take pictures of each page and how you would navigate around it.  Really engaging and would easily encourage creativity.

The digital leaders really stole the show for me and yet again proved that this form of student leadership shows the true potential of students.  They spoke with such passion about what they did and how being a digital leader had developed their confidence and skills.  They talked about the projects they had done from leading in the classroom, training staff, helping local primary schools and to running assemblies, as well a sthe work they had done to help set up this event.

Jon Bridgeman then selivewred a presentation on effective feedback. 80% of feedback received is from peers and 80% of that is inaccurate.  It is clear that to answer this we need to help structure the feedback to make it have impact. He discuseed Public Critique, that to give feedback effectively you follow simple rules.

Kind, make the feedback about the work not the person.

Specific, it should explain why it is good or why they like it.

Helpful, it should actually bring about a change to the outcome.

If students follow these steps (and it is useful to actually teach them using examples) then they can benefit from the peer feedback.  Jon used Austins Butterfly as an example to illustrate this.  A child who turned a fairly abstract picture of a butterfly into a quite impressive version just through peer feedback.

Tom Warrander @TheHGPig then presented on his work around classroommedics and the great stuff he was doing. He has a website http://www.classroommedics.co.uk where there is a whole host of information about science and medicine that can be used to help motivate, inspire and inform students about loads of different things.  I will definitely be using the ideas around sports hall science.

All in it was a great evening with some truly inspirational presentations.  It is really nice to see people with the same educational philosophy as I have and hear what they are doing about it in their schools.  The idea that education is more than just chasing the sheep grades B A A*(my favourite animal reference from the night amongst the goose and butterfly) that we are meant to be developing the whole child not just getting them qualifications like a conveyor belt.

A few weeks ago @ictevangelist put out a tweet to compile a list of useful apps that teachers were using.  He used Padlet as the tool to collect all of the information.

After adding to it I got thinking about how it could be used in teaching to help students with sharing ideas.  This led into a Post 16 meeting where we discussed lots of ideas to help in delivering outstanding sessions.  One of these ideas was a table-cloth where students wrote down their learning and added to it over a period of time to track learning.

Being a bit of a self-confessed geek I instantly thought that this great idea could be made digital, especially as I rarely teach in the same classroom in succession.

So 2 + 2 equaled using Padlet to create the sane thing in a portable, sharable version.

So today I tried it out with my Y11 session, I created a simple wall with some instructions on it for the students to follow.  Shared this via Edmodo so they all had a link to it and so it could be accessed anytime.

The outcome was really positive, I displayed my iPad screen on to the projector and as students accessed the wall and added their points it quickly grew to a whole page of thoughts and ideas that in turn led to some really good discussion.

The idea now is to refer back to this as we move through the topic to check our learning and to track our progress.  The students can also use it as a revision tool as the wall builds.

Other uses that I plan are for using as a ‘stuck’ board, students to post questions on if they are finding a topic difficult.  Anyone in the group can then post an answer to their question.  This concept being based on an idea from @MissJLud

Setting up a wall is really easy.  Sign up for an account and then add a new wall.  you can add a title and description by selecting the settings tool on the right.  You can change the background to the wall and then you are away.  In the settings tab there is a link option where you can get the URL address for the wall which can then be shared however you see fit.  Personally i use Edmodo as it is how we share other work in my groups but twitter or simple email will work just as well.  To add a post, students just double-click anywhere on the wall.  They need to add their name and a subject, then their text.  There are also options to add links to the internet or files from your own system.  The other great thing about it is that it does work really well on different platforms.  Students today used iPhones, iPads and Android devices to contribute.

Try it out, it’s really simple and FREE

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Students making apps

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Today saw the start of a new project I have been thinking of starting for a while. I wanted to transform how students present their work for the Injury module in BTEC sport.
After spending a lot if time thinking about why we do the things we do for assignments, I felt we really needed to create something that has a real purpose.
We discussed the need for information on injury, who would need it? Where might it be needed? In what form would it be useful?
It seemed obvious that we would need to create something that contained lots of information but could be portable. An app seemed like the right tool.
Today we spent time to look at how you can create your own app, we used ibuildapp.com. I have played with this a little beforehand so felt confident in teaching it to the students.
After going over the basics with them I set them off to be creative, they had the knowledge from previous sessions, now they just had to think about how to present it.
The lesson was really successful, lots of engagement, the students really responded to learning new skills that they could use out of school and they seemed really proud of the initial outcome.
This is only the start, the whole module will be presented in this way, each section will be recorded or written within the app to create a useful tool for health and safety in sport

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