DISPLAYING ITEMS BY TAG: COMPUTING

While there are many different virtual learning environments available on the market, some with high running costs, Microsoft Teams is a practical solution for teachers who want to incorporate educational technology into the classroom.

The current education system in England has found itself under increasing scrutiny for the one-size-fits-all nature it has adopted, with many believing the focus on rigid testing is having a detrimental effect on students’ wellbeing and progress in schools. This has culminated in Ofsted shifting its focus on assessment in the new inspection framework to introduce a more personalised, balanced and inclusive approach that prioritises ‘intent, implementation and impact’. 

“If we teach today's students as we taught yesterday's, we rob them of tomorrow” - John Dewey.

I was first introduced to this quote by Lee Parkinson, and I think it illustrates perfectly how we should think of edtech. When it comes to technology in the classroom, we tend to follow the most up-to-date trends; this has been how I have used technology such as Minecraft and online memes (ideal for grammar). Plus, there really is an app for absolutely everything. However, to bring real benefit to edtech usage, I’m now changing my thinking.

I had always believed that, in a fast-paced world, we need to find the latest app of the week and involve it in the class to best stay at the cutting edge. However, more recently I have backed off a little. I came to the realise that learners don’t need our help on discovering apps, or figuring out how to access them. They need help with using these resources creatively and effectively. So, at Old Hall Primary our approach has changed from having the latest app on the iPad, or the newest piece of software on the computers - we have slightly gone back to basics.

Apple apps - Back-to-basics

For me, Keynote, Pages and iMovie are a necessity on any school iPad. Admittedly, I was guilty of not using these enough, but since taking the time to really understand them - as well as going through the free Apple Teacher programme - I have done a u-turn. This could be due to the ease of many other apps, or possibly user interface on third-party apps that we use more regularly, but investing the time can really pay off. I think this could also be the case for Google and Microsoft products too, both of which offer self-taught programmes similar to Apple Teacher. I thought I would share one ‘hack’ / feature for a few resources...

Keynote... and Magic Move!

Keynote can used to create presentations. It’s similar to Powerpoint, but with a cleaner, less complicated look, which does help the user interface. A fantastic feature that I wasn’t aware of is Magic Move, a transition tool you can apply between two slides. If the next slide shares any objects such as images, text or text boxes with the previous slide, those objects will be magically moved from one position to the next, and this can then be saved as a video! Therefore, you could turn a presentation into an informative animation, which would be very helpful to explain relationships and cause & effect, such as:

  • Movement of tectonic plates.
  • Circuits.
  • Solar System and the movement of objects.
  • Explaining computing concepts.

Pages… and Instant Alpha!

Pages is Apple’s word processing software, best described as a mixture of Word and Publisher which has the simple, intuitive look of most Apple products. The main feature that I got excited about was Instant Alpha, which allows you to delete the background or a selected space of an image. This offers a couple of benefits: it makes the image look more part of the text, rather than the old copy and pasted image with a box around it, and it also allows for a basic ‘Photoshopping’ effect of a couple images becoming one.

 

iMovie… and CCTV footage!

This is probably the Apple software that people are the most familiar with, iMovie is a very effective video editor where you can add pictures, videos, audio or a combination of all three. The effect I like to do was shown to me by Amy Kingsley, an Apple ADE based in Manchester. Amy uses Apple products in an inspirational way in KS1, creating a CCTV effect video!

In truth, the effect is actually using two features. The colour filter is enabled done by tapping a clip, selecting the Filter button, and selecting a filter (I like to go for a black and white one for this end product). If you only want a portion of a clip to have a colour filter, just split the clip and add the filter to the segment you want. The second part of this is to add a title. This is done by selecting a section of the video, tapping the Title button, and choosing the style of font and its position (for this I prefer lower). The end product is very effective, especially for creating exciting videos such as dinosaurs or aliens invading the school, or even staging a break in to help inspire a newspaper report.

Seesaw… and changing your Classwork Mindset!

Seesaw is an online portfolio system that can be used to collect and comment on work. More importantly, children’s parents, guardians and carers can comment on the work too! To get started, teachers will need to upload pupils’ names separately (or, for speed, they can enter a full class list). Seesaw then does the rest. Honestly, this is enough to give each child a login and account for Seesaw. Not only that, but Seesaw does all the hard work to give the child’s parents a log in, too. Plus, it’s free!

Seesaw provides the perfect way to keep a constant record of a child’s progress. It links brilliantly with other apps, so it is a fantastic way to collect and share work with pupils on their iPads. As Seesaw links well with other apps, information can be uploaded in a variety of ways:

  • Photo – I have done this with artwork, homework projects, work from class, and even Science experiments, as well as work from Computing.
  • Video – I have used this for Science experiment videos, PE work in dance and gymnastics, Computing for explanation videos. Any videos from the camera roll can be uploaded.
  • Drawings – I have done this with explanations to gauge children’s understanding; similar to how I use Explain Everything.
  • Note – Not the most amazing feature in comparison to the rest but still valuable for research purposes.
  • Link and File – These are great for sharing work from the teacher and doing some project-based learning.

 

It is worth noting that all of the above features can also be improved further with a brilliant feature with is adding a sound file, or annotation. This can be the child explaining what they have done or the teacher giving feedback to a piece of work. In addition, there is the facility for parents to add feedback too, which is very powerful!

Skype... and Book Creator

I enjoy using Skype, as there is so much power in having an expert stranger - I was lucky enough to get Jillian Morris-Brake. Jillian runs Bimini Shark Lab in the Bahamas, and has years of experience where she has traveled, filmed and photographed extensively across the globe. I was excited for my class to get the opportunity to speak to Jillian, as she could provide not only the content for our persuasive text, but also the purpose, which was going to be to shared on her website sharks4kids.com.

Launching Skype in your classroom is a fairly simple process. All it requires is a new account, some video and audio equipment, and a device to broadcast from. Skype used to only be available through the computer, but you can now use it on many different devices.

Following a Skype interview with Jillian, I asked the children to discuss the notes that they had made; they even swapped notes that they had made from Jillian’s lesson. We followed this with some research in class using iPads, laptops and, of course, books.

The next day I set the class up on Book Creator Chrome, which I had used with small groups, but I had wanted to try in a class situation. Dear me, what a game-changer! Book Creator itself is an app that has been used in schools for a number of years. Recently however, a Chrome site was launched. This has many of the same features, with one major addition: collaboration. Now, I have had some good moments with edtech, but 24 laptops accessing and working on the same book at the same time - wow! In short, we wrote an informative eBook about sharks and the threats to them, and managed to complete it in four hours: two hours were spent writing it, and then two the next day to edit.

In summary, I am not necessarily suggesting that you go out and use these specific edtech resources. This year, choose any piece of edtech that you are unfamiliar with, or haven’t used in a while, then spend some time learning its features. Brainstorm how to use it, share it with a colleague, give it a month or so of using it now and again in class, and see where it goes.

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It was Warwickshire County Council that first introduced us at The Coleshill School to the Digital Schoolhouse (DSH) team. We were so impressed by what the programme had to offer, that when the council kindly agreed to fund the initiative, we applied to become a DSH school straight away. While we’re a Secondary school, a significant number of Primary school pupils have chosen to come to us specifically because they’ve enjoyed the DSH experience so much. So, from that perspective alone it’s been massively successful. However, we’ve experienced even more benefits as a school...

As Computing teachers, the programme really opened our eyes to the importance of our students understanding the subject’s concept in order to fully appreciate its principles. So many students will sit at a computer and carry out a checklist of actions to reach their desired result. What many don’t understand, however, is why they are doing these various tasks. Therefore, if there happened to be a problem (a glitch in the system, for example) at any point along this checklist, they wouldn’t be able to try alternative routes to rectify it, because they simply wouldn’t have the conceptual knowledge that would enable them to do so.  

The DSH programme is a way of simplifying and explaining concepts away from a computer, something we never would have explored before. Over a year in, not only do we use this approach with the Primary school pupils, but we also apply the same concept to our own students. We’ve put quite a lot of what we’ve learned into our schemes of work for our Key Stage 3 students; ultimately, it’s changed the way we teach Computing in the school as a whole!  

A DSH session's activities depend entirely on the areas and styles upon which each school wants to focus. Workshops could focus on anything from understanding sequences in computing, to more playful computing activities (which can be embedded in workshops or delivered separately as an injection of play-based learning). Examples include:

Get with the Algo-rhythm

Aims to develop the understanding of a sequence and highlight the importance of accurate instructions. Developed by DSH and Langley Grammar School, Get with the Algo-rhythm was born from the ‘Computing through Dance’ project, to use innovative computing to appeal to girls. Flow charts are developed to instruct famous dance routines, including the Hokey Cokey and Thriller!

Cat on Yer Head

Cat On Yer Head is a crowd game that aims to teach key game-design principles using unplugged techniques. DSH worked in collaboration with Playniac to develop teacher guidance to help bring this exciting activity into the classroom. You can deliver it as a fun five minute starter to your lesson, or turn it into a main activity stretching over 20+ mins.

Jazzy Jigsaws

Here’s one that helps to develop strategic thinking and collaborative thinking skills within learners using jigsaw puzzles. This activity, developed in collaboration with Code Kingdoms, takes this well-loved game further by building in opportunities to develop Computational Thinking skills.

Click for larger version

You can find more workshop ideas at www.digitalschoolhouse.org.uk/workshops.

The DSH programme benefits Secondary schools, but it is also hugely valuable for Primaries too. It’s a great way to start teaching key skills related to Computing from a young age, and helps prepare them when it comes to making the transition to Secondary school. By the time they come to us in Year 7, for example, they’re already familiar with programming and debugging system; it’s an incredible starting point for them!  

Primary teachers really appreciate the programme too, as obviously Computing isn’t where their skill base lies. Several teachers have told me that prior to doing the DSH workshops, the extent of their Computing knowledge would have been limited to Microsoft Word and PowerPoint. However, the programme can really help to develop their skills - some have even used it as their Computing project!

My advice to other Secondary schools is this: Apply to become a DSH school. And to Primary schools, I say: Reach out to your nearest DSH school to schedule some workshops as soon as possible!

To find out more about the Digital Schoolhouse initiative, head over to www.digitalschoolhouse.org.uk and get involved!

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For schools, the question of which programming languages and tactics to focus is always difficult. To tackle this issue, VEX Robotics - the global leader in classroom and competition robotics - is kicking off the academic year with the introduction of two major edu-innovations. 2018/19 will be the year of VEX Coding Studio and STEM Labs. As well as getting students up to scratch in coding and computer science, both releases develop 21st-century skills like problem-solving, creativity and computational thinking. You’ll want to know about these resources - especially as they’re… free-of-charge - so let’s get acquainted.

VEX Coding Studio (VCS) is a one-stop software solution for the VEX IQ (Key Stage 2 and 3) and VEX EDR V5 (Key Stages 3, 4 and 5) robots. It seamlessly takes students from block-based to textual programming, walking learners through this notoriously difficult transition in a logical process. The software even opens up routes to advanced object-oriented concepts to stretch keen students.

Teachers can struggle with choosing which type of code to teach, but VCS covers three of the four most popular programming languages currently in use: Python, JavaScript and C++. These account for almost 40% of the programming languages used worldwide, giving students industry-relevant knowledge and giving teachers the flexibility to decide which code to teach which class.

VEX robots bring code to life and allow students to see the direct impact of programming on the real world. Getting hands-on with the EDR V5 and IQ robots actively involves students in the learning process and allows them to take ownership of their STEM learning; they’ll learn how individual maths and engineering elements come together to form solutions to practical problems.

The free VCS software is available on Windows and Mac, with Android, iOS and Chromebook support coming soon.

STEM Labs are a series of scaffolded, hands-on activities aligned with education standards that show real-world applications of concepts using the VEX EDR. Activities include diverse builds, games and competitions, all designed by a team of classroom teachers and cognitive scientists working closely with the world-renowned Carnegie Mellon Robotics Academy.

STEM Labs offer hundreds of hours of free curriculum content across the STEM subjects and beyond. They implement concepts into Maths, Design & Technology, Engineering and Computer Science subjects, with minimal preparation time for teachers. Each STEM Lab can be used on multiple platforms and includes easy to follow build instructions. The activities give students multiple approaches to solving a problem, allowing them to communicate and collaborate with their classmates, experiment, and design creative solutions.

With these amazing free resources, VEX Robotics continues to lead the way in classroom robotics. Through the VEX IQ and VEX EDR robotic platforms, as well as the fastest growing robotics competitions in the UK, the VEX IQ Challenge and VEX Robotics Competition, the company aims to inspire the world’s next generation of innovators, thinkers and problem solvers.

Check out https://www.vexrobotics.com/programming for information on VEX Coding Studio, and https://education.vex.com/ for access to STEM Labs.

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Digital leaders can be a great way to raise the profile for the effective, creative and safe use of technology in schools. It can be a great way to equip children with the enterprising and life skills needed in the future. Not only could the role of being a digital leader build their confidence and self-esteem - it would also be of benefit to teachers across the school.

In 2008 I was in my NQT year and teaching at South Rise Primary School. I had just been appointed as shadow ICT coordinator and given my first project. The ICT coordinator had applied successfully to the Local Authority for funding to start a community project with parents. We had written the application form, asking for money to buy five digital cameras. These would be used as part of a project to reach those parents whom we felt needed more of our support, or were “harder to reach” for whatever reasons. When we were granted the money, it fell to me to then run the project.

Computer Science educator Mark ‘Urban Teacher’ Martin has become a big name in education, and can be regarded as a true edtech expert. During London Tech Week 2018, Mark won the Diversity Champion Award at the TechXLR8 awards. Here, the South Bank UTC Computing lead - and Tech City UK digital business academy mentor - discusses favourite resources, representation, the people who inspire him, and more.

To coincide with 25th May’s Geek Pride Day, we thought we’d interview one of British education’s most passionate, knowledgeable geeks. Enter Primary acting head of school, NPQML-holder, blogger, presenter and Primary Rocker, Tim Head.

The Innovate My School community is warmly invited to the ITTE and MirandaNet 32nd International Annual Conference at Winchester University, to be held from the 7th-8th June. This exciting event’s proceedings will be based around the theme of ‘Raising Aspirations for Digital Education’. Find out why you need to attend below...

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