Archive for January, 2008
Another fun day in Cyprus, this time at the very sunny Ayios Nikolaos Primary School, right on the edge of the border with the Turkish controlled area in the North.
What a lovely school – full of laughter and smiles. Thank you to Mary Murdoch and her colleagues for a wonderful set of lessons wandering through the world of words.
More on our blogging theme for the week:
Getting your blog up and running
There are lots of blogging sites out there, most of which are free. Perhaps the two most popular free ones are Blogger.com and WordPress.com and setting your first blog site up can take just a few minutes, a relatively modern computer and a reasonably fast internet connection.
You will need an e-mail address. You could use your existing email address or you might choose to set up a new one purely for blogging purposes.
Choose a name for your blog e.g. ourclassblog This would give you a blog address something like http://ourclassblog.blogspot.com or http://ourclassblog.wordpress.com – depending on which of the two blog platforms mentioned you decide on. Why not get the class to compete in coming up with a short, sharp and succinct name?
The person setting up the blog and consequently deciding on its look, presentation, posting privileges is known as the Administrator – so that’s you, or your ICT co-ordinator. Once the set-up is complete you will be allocated a User Name and Password to access the Admin Control Panel whenever you want. Look on this as being the Master Control info – so keep it to yourself!
In the Control Panel you can authorise ‘posting’ privileges to pupils – either as individuals or as a group (or groups within the class). A post is the latest information that you are going to put on the blog. If you do give this privilege to pupils, they would have access only to areas of the Control Panel needed to create posts. In the Control Panel, you also set pupils’ user names and passwords and they would not able to change settings or moderate comments – more on that in the Safety First section. Similarly, for larger projects, you, as the Administrator, can delegate administration issues to other Administrators (what a relief!) Great if someone’s off on a course or similar – the blog doesn’t grind to a halt.
That’s it. Once you’ve created your blog, you’ll be able to create posts and start publicising your new blog to parents, other schools and beyond!
Dhekelia Primary (and a joint staff meeting with Ayios Nikolaos staff.) What fun! We did our exploring in the ICT suite today. That gave us the opportunity to record our ideas in digits rather than analogue pencil and paper styleee. Here are some of the ideas that Year 1 had for what might be up the top of a mysterious plant that we found:
Nice stuff! Have a read of some of Year3, 4 and 5′s writing, at the bottom of this post…
Thank you to all of the staff today and Mark Ward for his technical help through the sessions.
This week, in Cyprus, as well as looking at visual literacy ideas, we have been investigating other ways of motivating and inspiring children to write for a purpose. The ideas and implications of blogging in a school have been a major point of discussion and exploration. A blog can be a way of holding up a mirror to your class or school.
Almost everything that takes place in the busy primary school classroom could be reflected in the blog. In some ways you could say it is another way of making the walls of the school transparent, giving the opportunity for the wider community to see just how much marvellous stuff is going on in your establishment. Here’s just a few ideas to get you thinking:
• A daily diary for a science experiment over long period e.g. a diary of the sunflowers with experiment notes, scanned observation drawings, photographs, measurements and results.
• A gallery of artwork – scanned or digitally photographed.
• A list favourite and appropriate links to other blogs and sites. This, to use the jargon, is called a Blogroll. The blogroll could provide sources of information that could help children when they are rising to the exciting challenges you have set for homework.
• Work of the day/week/month – scan or digitally photograph hand written work or upload a digital version
• Set homework tasks – children respond to challenges with the teacher moderating and publishing responses
• Create an ongoing class novel
• A poetry anthology with recordings of the bards themselves reading their epic tales.
• One of my favourite books (*A Five Year Sentence by Bernice Rubens) features a character who begins to challenge herself to do more and more daring activities in her mundane life, by writing a diary of what she was going to do tomorrow. A simple use of a blog could be to herald what the lessons in the next few days are going to be about. Parents and children can share some research, or a clearer understanding of objectives, or even offer ideas and resources.
• Lunch time supervisors could broadcast the menu for the week (comments could express a constructive review of the lumps in the custard!)
Thank you to all the staff and children for a great, fun and challenging time. I am particularly grateful to Kate for her very knowledgeable technical assistance throughout the day. Kate has an interesting background in 3-D worlds as she worked as part of a team purchasing simulations for the M.O.D. We had a few surreal moments to day including having to put a projector into “High Altitude Mode” just before we climbed up a huge towering plant!
Well done to Nicola and Nicola who survived a tense Doors of Doom Challenge through some (audience-assisted) team work.
The children today had some great, imaginative ideas. Well done to all those who surprised themselves (and their teachers )
Meanwhile, back at the blogging ranch…
Sensible steps for safe blogging
The power of the Blog is awesome yet with that power comes responsibility – that of safeguarding your blog and your pupils from all the nasty, spammy and plain dodgy stuff that we all know is out there. These problems can be overcome and shouldn’t really be a barrier to the potential benefits to be gained. Indeed, it’s a good opportunity to share and discuss these issues of web responsibility with pupils in circle and SEAL time.
You may find that your blog starts to attract undesirable interjections in the way of ’spam’ (unwanted e-mail), nuisance and uninformed comments. Most of that spam will come from ‘comments’ to you or your students’ posts. Children being children, will post comments on each others blogs, most likely in mobile phone text format, “darren u smell.” While that may indeed be true, it’s not the sort of silly stuff you want on the blog. Even well meaning but ill-thought-through comments can be harmful to self esteem. (I still worry about my spelling thanks to a comment my dad made on my essay on Tornadoze! )
So the sensible thing to do is to set up your blog to only show comments that you or your administrator, have approved. In your Admin Control Panel, tick the box that allows you to ‘moderate’ any comments before they appear on the blog. You will be e-mailed when a comment has been posted and then it’s up to you to approve it or delete it. This is another reason why it is good to set the administrator’s e-mail to one that you, and only you, check regularly, and carefully. Don’t be flattered into “approving” all of the comments your blog receives. Even an apparently innocuous comment such as, “Hey! Fantastic blog! Michael,” could contain a link to a site selling those bright blue pills that help various parts of your anatomy… Putting these controls in place and being a little bit wary will prevent automatically-generated spam comments but also these inappropriate and unwelcome comments from individuals. Both of the Blogging platforms I’ve mentioned do have effective anti-spam systems.
As we touched on earlier, before they start contributing to the blog, it is important that children are aware of the rules of ‘net-iquette’. The risks of blogging are very much the same as with any other website or email system but, because it is so easy to update blogs, anyone writing in a blog should ensure that the blog contains no information that could potentially identify them. Ideally, your guidance for blogging should form part of the school’s internet and web acceptable use policy. At the excellent Hope School blog site, Class 2 have devised their own set of ‘blog rules’ to make sure blogging is fun and safe. The rules include a range of behavioural advice from “Don’t give out your address or phone number or any personal details” to “Remember from our RE lessons, you’ve got to be a friend to have a friend.” Visit the rules and the blog itself HERE
After a lovely day off on Sunday, when the most energetic activities I took part in were breathing, reading and listening to my iPod, (Reasons to be Cheerful, The best of Ian Dury and the Blockheads being the most uplifting and entertaining listen at the moment!) I had an early start (a VERY early start!) this morning to be able to go through the paperwork process of getting an Armed Forces access pass.
I am official now so I was able to spend a really superb day at EpiskopiPrimary school. Well, I say “a day” but time here is a little surreal. I taught 3 hour and a quarter+ lessons and had a meeting with staff and we were finished by 1.30!!
From my time in West-Africa, I have discovered that lightning in hot climates can be truly incredible. I hope that the weather becomes slightly less dramatic by the end of the week.
Episkopi school is a vibrant and lively place with some gorgeous displays, including a continuously scrolling flat-screen display in the entrance hall showing a gallery of events and happenings.
During our afternoon meeting, we had a look at some of the positive experiences than come from maintaing a school blog.
Whose job is it to make up all these bizarre new ICT words – wikis, podcasting and blogs? I’d like that job! Take the last of those, blogs. It’s actually short for weblog – a log or diary that you keep on the world wide web. With an estimated 70,000 new blogs (or online diaries) created worldwide – everyday – it’s clearly an important phenomenon.
Whereas a diary is usually an intensely personal affair for your eyes only (what I wouldn’t have given to have read my sister’s diary all those years ago…) a blog is a bit different. A blog takes the personal and conversational nature of diaries and give this a public dimension, via the web – and allows you to do this easily, quickly and without the need to be, well, geeky… Think of it as a personal web page made up of frequently updated information. You can give voice to your opinions on any subject. If you create a blog you’ll become a ‘blogger’ engaged in the process known as ‘blogging’.
Designing your blog is point-and-click (using words, pictures, video or sound) and you can be up and running in minutes. You can update your blog as often as you wish, keeping it fresh and attractive for regular visitors. Importantly, you can show links to other material, such as other blogs or web sites with relevant, additional, information. If you’d still like to keep your thoughts private or by invitation only, you can protect it with a password. But because most blogs are public, you might be surprised how many people read and comment on your views and thoughts. So why should you want to blog? As a teacher, you might find that you benefit from keeping a journal of your experiences in the classroom or as a place for storing those late night flashes of genius or notes from an inspiring course. And, because your readers can leave comments, they may add some insight to yours. A big part of blogging is about sharing. But, be aware that some people that leave comments can be less-than-kind. More on commenting in subsequent posts… I have worked with a few schools investigating the potential of blogs in the classroom. At its simplest, a blog can be an online portfolio of children’s work containing text, scanned images, sound, photographs and even video. There is also the opportunity to be more inventive and use a blog as the basis of a class topic or investigation. One of the best school blogs, Sandhaig Primary School, for instance, not only includes a number of online galleries in its blog but is an excellent example of a school regularly updating its blog. There are book reviews, journal entries for school events and trips, and even examples of Flash movies they have created. You can visit it (and comment) at http://www.sandaigprimary.co.uk/
There’s a huge potential audience for your blog and, because your blog site can show how many ‘hits’ or visits there have been, children will love the fact that they’ve had so many readers. From this, other benefits develop too. The audience is potentially so large, real and live that writing for blogs takes an additional responsibility. Combining text and images can help to organise ideas more carefully and pupil confidence, not just with ICT, can increase. You might even find that blogging encourages greater accuracy, care and motivation. Blogging provides a great opportunity to give children a voice. Thank you to head teacher Peter Kerr, deputy Carole Yates, Matt Bland and their collegues for a superb day. Akrotiri School (and more on blogging) tomorrow.
The blog may go a bit quiet for a few days, depending on internet access, as I am off for a week working for the Service Children’s Education (SCE) team in Cyprus. Cyprus SCE operates 4 primary schools 2 secondary schools across Cyprus which provide schooling for the children of service families and MOD personnel. I am doing quite a lot of work forces schools across the world, including Brunei and Germany. As ever when travelling abroad to work, how much of the country I will actually get to see is probably limited but I am looking forward to the trip immensely. For the first few days I will be staying at the Columbia Beach Hotel, in Pissouri. Monday – Episkopi School Tuesday – Akrotiri School, and a joint staff meeting with Episkopi Then I will be staying at the Lordos Beach Hotel in Larnaca, where I hope to be meeting up with Dave Lowe, SCE Consultant who will be staying there too. Wednesday – Dhekelia Primary and a joint staff meeting with Ayios Nikolaos staff. Thurs – Ayios Nikolaos Fri – travel to St Raphael (back towards Limassol) for an INSET day. This will be interesting – teachers have been banned last week by Gordon Brown from removing their laptops from MoD property! For the first four days I am going to be doing demo lessons across the age ranges and also working with some staff on developing their use of blogs and other practical ICT ideas to raise standards in speaking, listening and writing. Thank you to Mike Chislett and his colleagues for organising my trip. I’ll let you know how I get on when I return. Apologies if I don’t send you a postcard.
A mightily fun second day at Our Lady of Lourdes Primary School, Kingswood, Bristol. The children yesterday showed that they have a great sense of humour and imaginative minds. I can see where they got some of it from, as the staff are a fun bunch, up for new challenges. One of the things we did today was make soundtracks and scores to go with some of the game elements. Pictoral scores are a great way of planning or recording a composition. The school has a Mac and an iBook and is looking into developing their use of it to record a variety of audio projects. I am a big fan of using GarageBand with children of all ages. It gives them the opportunity of creating sound tracks alongside film. There are many downloadable promo films for the Myst games. These are perfect as a stimulus for a music project. Selecting appropriate timbres, timing sounds to match changes of images, creating a collage of colours within the sound spectrum to enhance the on screen images. If you don’t have access to GarageBand on a Mac, there are some superb, simple alternatives for P.C. that give children the chance to compose: 2Simple’s 2Compose includes the opportunity to compose with notation as well; More Musical Monsters(Insert: Sound from file: find it) A quick way of building a song backing track is provided by Chord Studio Try Create Bands for a laugh too! Visit the Animusic site for some excellent and imaginative digital instruments of the future. There are animated clips on the "DVD info and Clips" page It may be a cacophony we produce when we try our hand for the first time at composition, but it is SO MUCH FUN! Well done indeed to Jon for conducting one of the best soundtracks I have witnessed. Thanks, again, to ALL the staff today for making my visit such an enjoyable one. is part of the Musical monsters range from QandA and encourages children to build and combine blocks of sounds, thus creating simple but effective compositions. With both of these programs, the end result can be exported as a MIDI file which can be inserted into PowerPoint presentation.
On Wednesday, Sir Ken mentioned those people who don’t seem to have to stop to breathe when they are talking. Circular breathing is an art form! Who can spot the theme this fellow mashes up? (Slightly over long but impressive.) You can even get lessons on how to breathe in circles… HERE
Back to "the chalk face" and what I love doing most, lessons with children who are up for these challenges. And they certainly were today at Our Lady of Lourdes Primary School, Hanham Road, Kingswood, Bristol. Thank you to head teacher Dave Cahill, his colleagues and pupils, for a thoroughly enjoyable romp through the worlds of visual literacy. I was very impressed with a couple of children that I was honoured to be involved in conversation about some landscapes and the impressions that these places left upon their young minds. They were philosophical about the need to make changes in order to preserve what we have upon this planet, but, they also seemed aware of previous swings and alterations in temperatures that the Earth has experienced. A fine balance between knowledge and an understanding of the importance of effort and change, however small and insignificant it may seem to the one who is "trying". It reminded me of this poignant clock. It is thought provoking and does not give a vast amount of guilt free sunshine, but may be well worth discussing with children.
I was honoured to be asked to give a presentation at the Enhancing Learning and Teaching with ICT conference for Liverpool City Council, Children Services alongside Sir Ken Robinson and Professor Stephen Heppell.
This is the second time I have had the dubious pleasure of following Sir Ken on to a stage to present. I say dubious because the man is a remarkable act to follow. Great wit matched with great wisdom.
Ken and I wondered if there was a bit of a theme being cultivated here today, both of us using a stick to navigate with. We wondered if Stephen would turn up on a drip! (Thankfully not, even after a nasty ski accident just before BETT.)
Robinson and Rylands even formed a duo to rival Status Quo.
What a superb event! Thank you to Paul Bradshaw, (Senior School Improvement Officer, ICT and Global Learning.) and his colleagues for an excellent and inspiring day.
After my presentation I was interviewed by some Students from Broughton Hall High who are reporting live from the ‘Enhancing Learning and Teaching with ICT’ conference for RadioWaves. The interview should go up HERE soon. They made tremendous and enquiring reporters. They had the opportunity to interview Ken Robinson, myself and Stephen Heppell. Their broadcasts and blogs will be available at RadioWaves by the end of the week.
Please listen and leave your own comments..
In a lunchtime session after my presentation I talked with a few folk about the incredible range of genres that can be inspired by these visual literacy ideas.
Here is an idea for a “real reason” to write a persuasive letter:
How about getting the children who are using some of the virtual worlds as a stimulus for writing to justify (plus, hopefully, cherish and value) their experiences within the worlds.
The Head *&*&*& Primary School
*&*&*&*&*& *&*&*& *&
It has come to my attention that you are using computer games during the Literacy Hour. I am not very happy with this.
Literacy is one of the most important subjects you are taught in school and watching and playing computer games will not help you to improve your writing.
I know that Mr Rylands came in and worked with you on one occasion and Miss *&*&*& continued using the game, but I have been informed that you also used the game last week as well.
I am very concerned that you are playing too much and not learning enough. I will be looking at your work from the Myst week you did last term and the work you did last week.
If your work does not show improvement, I will have no option but to ban all computer games in school.
As well as your written work, I would also like a letter from you stating why you continue to use Myst III and why you feel it has helped you in improving your Literacy.
I will take into account your opinions and work and will discuss it further at the next Management meeting. You will hear my final decision next week.
*&*&*&*& Head Teacher
I found this sign in a train toilet.
I was a little confused because I have to say that, no matter how hard I tried, I could not get the bin off the wall in order to insert it in the lavatory.
I AM a very lucky man. I get a LOT of sunshine blown in my direction with a huge amount of positive feedback to events and happenings. I don’t often like to flag up the delightful comments that people leave about our training days and conferences. However, sometimes one springs out from the crowd because of its expressive nature.
Here is a comment made by curriculum advisor Frank Terrell to our course in Monmouthshire yesterday.
“When you organise a course for teachers you know that they can be the most critical of audiences:
“Oh, I wouldn’t have done it that way!” or “So they mean to take me away from my class for that?” When you book Tim for a course the teachers turn into pussycats, just sit back and listen to the purring.
The Monmouthshire teachers who dragged themselves away from their classrooms on a wet Friday had been warned: bring a laptop and a percussion instrument and be prepared for a rollercoaster ride.
Tim never fails to deliver. Karen and I, who had organised the course, began to worry at how quiet everyone was, they didn’t even have any questions. We then realised it was because they were hanging on Tim’s every word trying to absorb his wisdom. That wisdom is delivered through anecdotes that are often funny but poignant. Each one is based firmly in the classroom and his audience never fails to recognise the link with pupils they have taught themselves. The comments of children are the best pricks to pomposity and Tim’s digs at his own disability and recollections of humorous episodes travelling the world or delivering in schools mean that learning and laughter are never far apart.
Tim’s request for delegates to bring a laptop is so they can use the Myst III interactive computer game on the course to find out how he has used it so successfully with children in his own class in Chew Magna Primary School and subsequently all over the world.
If Monmouthshire teachers thought that was all then they had a surprise since Tim’s courses offer so much more: tips on engaging the disengaged, exciting the bored, thrilling the reluctant reader with the joy of reading and filling the unwilling writer with the immediate need to write and at such great length that it is hard to get them to stop
The teachers who were worried that the course was all about using computers soon found that, once the game was loaded, the had to do little beyond move the cursor to unveil a magical world for all learners regardless of their age. When Tim gave us fifteen minutes to produce a mind map of the school subjects and topics covered he had to give us an extension and still it wasn’t enough: all of the curriculum could be covered, all of the Key Skills seemed to fit and many other things beyond.
The percussion instruments came into their own when we had to compose a soundtrack with Mostyn, one of our number, leading the way as the conductor. The result was stunning and we had had no time to rehearse. One of the delegates, an NQT, thought Tim should be compulsory on all ITT courses. We want Tim to come back to Monmouthshire to work with some of our children so that more of our teachers can see this inspiring wizard of the walking stick in action and share the joy we all experienced in learning some of the methods that make Tim the magic man of Myst III.”
Frank Terrell School Improvement Service