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CESI Conference 2016

| February 27, 2016 | 0 Comments 

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Great to be in CESI, Computers in Education Society of Ireland, voluntarily supporting ICT in Education in Ireland since 1973. It is for anyone with an interest in the potential of technology to enhance the teaching and learning experience for all involved in education.

The conference is the highlight of the activities of CESI each year. It provides a welcome opportunity for those who have been communicating on line to have face to face time. There is a mix between presentations and workshops where practitioners have the opportunity to share with one another in a practical way. You can view the details of many previous conferences in the conference section of this website. Live streaming of the keynote and capstone presentations has occurred more frequently as bandwidth has increased. You can view some of these presentations on the CESI YouTube channel and see pictures from previous conferences on the CESI Flickr page.

We have been blessed to do keynotes before at CESI.

A recurring theme of today was the balance that is needed between planning what you want to achieve in lessons, and flying with ideas. Children can lead in many of the game based sessions, but you do need to have a clear idea of objectives and intended outcomes. However, it is important to take the brakes off and fly a bit as well. It is really crucial to explore game environments in a structured, but not overly planned, way initially. e.g. to have an idea about what kind of things you can cover but not predetermine a route or how long you are going to spend in each location. It is important to become familiar with the games yourself at first. Then, when you begin explorations with a class, to be prepared to cover less physical ground than you might expect.

You may only “move” one “pace” but the children will be able to see how a new paragraph can begin with just a turn of the head, or reaching out to move a lever. Standing outside a door is a classic example of how tension and expectation can be built within a writer’s, and reader’s mind.

ShipWholly without warning, wild wet winds woke us wailing weirdly -waging war with wind-tossed waters. We witnessed a wreck within this watery wasteland, where withering westerly winds, and waves wrought swathes of wretchedness.

Yet not one withering wallflower awaited us!

We witnessed wayfaring weather-beaten waifs, wearied & well-nigh weeping, worn-out from their wanderings. We worried for their well-being. This was wasted

Roller CoasterWaiting within wattled, withered & weighty wooden walls, these waterproofed weirdos, instead of wailing woefully, welcomed us warmly and wrapped us in wondrous words, wild with what wholly warranted ripples of applause.

Writing isn’t “working”. Word wizards waved their wooden wands – whittling, wringing worlds from words, sending them wistfully wriggling, wheeling, windmilling, & weaving in to the air!

We wished we could wend our way further, but with well-timed wisdom, we wound up our walks. Well done one and all. Wonderful!

On Saturday 27th February 2016 the Computers in Education Society of Ireland (CESI) held its annual conference. The venue for this year’s conference being Dublin City University (DCU). The conference was preceded by the now-traditional TeachMeet CESI event, which was heldat the Regency Hotel, Dublin.

Conference Theme

2015 saw the launch of Ireland’s Digital Strategy for Schools which aims to “greatly enhance the learning experience and lifelong learning skills of all our students”. The foreword to the strategy calls upon all teachers “to use ICT in the classroom to bring learning to life for students; to give learners the tools to collaborate and to examine engaging problems; to research and analyse information; and to use ICT resources to communicate their ideas and to share what they create with others beyond the walls of their classroom or school”

With this in mind, the theme for the 2016 CESI annual conference was “Our Digital Strategy – making IT matter”. Ireland’s Digital Strategy for Schools was put into practice by the participants of this conference in the years to come. This year’s event focused upon an understanding of the importance of information technology in education, the potentials and problems that lie ahead in implementing the Digital Strategy for Schools, and the ways in which it can make a meaningful and magical curriculum for the learners.

Bath Spa University, Bath

| February 19, 2016 | 9 Comments 

Bath Spa University

A return visit to trip to Bath Spa University to work with their Primary and Early Years PGCE trainees.

Thanks to Emma Asprey, Senior Lecturer, at the School of Education for inviting us to the university, to spend precious time with her students,

Thanks to Emma for her thoughts: We were very pleased to welcome Tim and Sarah back to Bath Spa University to mark the halfway point in the PGCE programme and provide some extra magic and inspiration to our trainees as they embark on their final placements. It was such a treat to be immersed in Tim’s playful and imaginative world of learning. Staff and trainees enjoyed learning together, having fun and exploring their own creativity in a unique blend of virtual and very real experiences. We’re thrilled that so many children will benefit from these ideas being brought into classrooms to enrich their learning.

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Encouraging confidence, and creativity, in children of all ages and abilities, CAN help them achieve

Analog principles are vital to make digital tools effective Energy, in some ways, is even more valuable than the books, pencils, and technology in our rooms. It’s about ethos, character and atmosphere. This energy starts with one individual in every classroom: the teacher. It is always good to remember, though easily forgotten, to show our classes we are glad to see them, and also show them how happy we are to be there, excited by what is going to happen, or could happen, if they join us. How important it is to greet your pupils as they arrive. Meet them smiling. Smile as much as possible during the session too. Then, and this is essential: Say farewell to every one of them, as they leave, past you, at the door, perhaps with a handshake. At least, with a smile. This can build a real positive confidence in a child: “Whatever I didn’t get, didn’t understand – whatever I became frustrated with, whatever I lost my patience with – whatever mistakes I made, my teacher STILL THINKS I’M ALRIGHT and TOMORROW WILL BE O.K”.

Parklands Primary, Leeds ~ Day 2

| January 14, 2016 | 2 Comments 

Parklands Primary

A second day at Parklands Primary in Leeds joined by staff from Grimes Dyke Primary, Manston Primary and Manston St James Primary Academy.

Well done to all of the children and staff for taking off with words, in magical and mysterious ways. A wonderous morning with courageous 60+ Year 3 and Year 4 pupils, their teachers, teaching asistants, and visiting colleagues.


… followed by a lively, talented Year 1 class …

Thoughts from Tom Cunliffe, Year 4 Teacher:

The VillageThe children are flowing in with a hubbub of anticipation as they gaze upon the screen. Already you can see them looking deeper into the mountainous realm wondering where it is, asking questions to each other.

We’re welcoming Tim Rylands and Sarah back to day 2 at Parklands Primary School, Leeds. Whilst this will be a mesmerising session for the children, it is the teachers that are sat with notebooks and ‘writing sticks’, in eager anticipation of new teaching techniques and resources to inspire over the coming year.

Mr WalkerTim has just introduced ‘Mr Walker’, his back up walking stick (sadly number one has started a new journey with a thief). In the space of 3 minutes, Tim has got the children thinking about the holes in Mr Walker. Children are conferring; “Mr Walker has holes so he can breathe” one child says, “A fox with long, sharp teeth bit right through it” says another. Personification at its best.

By giving permission for children to ‘go for it’ and rewarding answers with ‘a ripple’, every child in the room now wants to give their answers and there is an ocean of hands up in the air – 80 different reasons why Mr Walker has holes in him. This is testament to the power of allowing ‘silly answers’ and welcoming them the same as any other. Children are engaged, encouraged and excited.

The children had almost forgotten about the mystical land dancing away on the screen behind. Often there is a fear in the teaching profession about technology distracting children – stopping them from thinking independently and discussing ideas. Yet that idea has been thrown out of the window here. What is clear, is that with the right guidance, it can only enhance the fantastic imagination that children already have. We sometimes forget that children WANT to speak and they WANT to be involved in the now. They are proud of their ideas. There is a child next to me, laughing because he can’t get his idea in for the amount of children sharing their ideas. He’s even standing now. Too late, but point proven.

WritingWithout ‘permission’, children are scribbling ideas into their books. This is exactly what we want children to be doing; Writing because they can, rather because they have to. And now…competition time – When we hear Tim say a ‘simile’ we have to go really high and screechy! Re-enforcing children’s understanding through games is a fantastic way of embedding knowledge. It’s now the children’s turn and in the space of 1 minute we have 80 similes soaring around the room like… (pop your similes in the ‘Add your Thoughts’ at the top of this blog!).

Writing time, and the scratching of ideas is magnificent. Children believe they are immersed in the setting – not because they can see it, but because they have talked about it and have shared ideas with explanation rather than just a ‘title of their idea’. Byron is going to share his description (with a name like that he best be good). ‘Smoke as hot as lava. I can hear a rattling of leaves and see a building, black as people’s hair. Nailed it. Well done Lord Byron.

We’ve talked about paragraphs, personification, similes, metaphors and now we’re using rhetorical questions, but the children don’t even know they are using them! Far too often we introduce a literary skill by introducing it by name, e.g. ‘This is a rhetorical question, does this sentence need an answer?’ rather than discovering it through talk. This way, children take ownership of it and are much more proud to use in their writing. One thing to stress is that these are not all new singing and dancing teaching techniques. Rather, Tim is reminding us of the importance of questioning and not stopping when we get to a ‘good’ answer.

PaperAs teachers, ideas are thrown at us from all directions and as we pick something up, inevitably other ideas will go from our minds. I remember my teacher training, leaving with so many fantastic ideas and enthused to use them in the classroom. Yet the reality of day to day teaching is that things are left on the side. Tim has reminded me of the wealth of resources, skills and ideas out there. His techniques are nothing new; they are solid and herald good practice. Yet the resources enhancing these techniques are constantly evolving. We must not rely on electronic resources alone, yet we must not dismiss them as ‘things for home time’. A whole world can be unlocked to journey through, and you’ll be amazed at where the children take you!

By Tom Cunliffe, Year 4 Teacher.

A massive THANK YOU to Tom for his reflections, and again to Head Teacher Chris Dyson for having the passion and vision to invite us to his school for these two days.

Parklands Primary, Leeds ~ Day 1

| January 13, 2016 | 2 Comments 

Parklands Primary

Fantastic indeed, to be at Parklands Primary in Leeds joined by staff from Grimes Dyke Primary and from Manston Primary, for a 2 day visit. Our first day spent with the Y5, Y6 and Y2 pupils and their teachers, followed by a twilight with all the staff and colleagues from the visiting school.

A massive THANK YOU to Head Teacher Chris Dyson:

Chris DysonParklands Primary School (Seacroft Leeds) were all set to ‘Boldly’ go on a writing adventure to inspire the love of writing. The scene was set; a cold, grey winters morning at Parklands Primary School, Leeds. …. the lights were dimmed at 915 am as 64 excited, nervous, apprehensive Y5 Y6 pupils, their teachers and teaching assistants walked into the magical, mystery world that was known as Tomanha. The eerie music made the hairs on the children’s necks stand to attention like needles on a cactus plant. Something strange was to occur, something mystical, something suspicious perhaps…..

The children sat in awe and wonder as a strange image rose from the front of the stage and greeted the pupils. The image shuffled to the front of the stage, his hairless head reflected the light from a strange light source as his face, his eyes and his smile told of a hidden secret that he seemed desperate to share with the children. If anyone could put this man’s pain to ease, it was the children of Parklands Primary School. The strange man was desperate to share what he had seen, what he had experienced and what he had found out from his old friend Atrus. He needed someone he could trust, he needed someone who would not let him down, he needed some razor sharp writers who would help him with his quest and to be entrusted with his prized and sacred journal……… After his travels around the world, to places such as Hong Kong; Vietnam; Arizona; Sweden; Dubai and Ireland, the man known simply as Tim Rylands had arrived at Parklands Primary School, hoping and pleading that these children would have the answers to the questions that he had been seeking for so long all over the world!

Parklands Primary School is proud to welcome the one, the only, the King of Inspirational Writing – Tim Rylands. For every Lone Ranger, there is a Tonto. For every Ant, there is a Dec. For every Dean, there is a Torville….. For Tim, he has the brilliant Sarah….

Parklands Primary school is a larger than average, 1.5 form-entry maintained school, located in Seacroft, an urban area in the east of Leeds. Our brilliant, beautiful children need opportunities to shine. They need experiences to inspire and challenge……. They need Tim Rylands……

Let us baldly go into a world full of suspense and intrigue …….. Let the writing begin!

Thoughts from James Haddock – Year 5 Teacher – Parklands Primary School, ably assisted (and worth a mention in despatches) by my three Lieutenants: Riley, Reece & Lauwureance; by Charli from down the way and Olivia the Sylph of synonyms.

SurvivedStanding here, the four walls of the classroom were closing in on us. Claustrophobia took a tight grip on our hearts; ignoring this the roll call was taken and relief flooded through us as we saw how many of us had survived the night. Some of us stole furtive glances up into the void of the ceiling, ears straining to hear the tip tap of footfalls as the mysterious animals crept and frolicked within our space. Fear was replaced by a sense of anticipation that spread like spring blossoms through our serried ranks. We were to meet someone…someone that could finally give us the key we needed to unlock our hidden talents. Help us to escape to the meaninglessness of life without simile, metaphor and the solid foundation of a well-constructed sentence.

PrisonWe departed our prison, moving like panthers down the straight, partially lit corridor. None of us knew what to expect. Eyes bright with anticipation the young ones looked towards their leader. Their looks implored him to tell them more, but his shrug, nonchalant yet stern like a modern day Chevalier quietened their questioning looks. A raised eye brow and the crease of a smile, playing like fairy dust, around his visage showed admittance that he knew as much as them. What was to await them? Would they receive the answers that had eluded them for so long? For the time being, as they dispersed throughout the cavernous room, that was to be home for the next two hours, these questions would remain unanswered, skulking like Victorian urchins in the shadowy corners of the room.
CharactersThe man positioned himself at the head of one of the provided tables. He was surrounded by three of his most treasured Lieutenants. He felt confidence flow through him, these fine boys would not let him down, come Hell or High Water. A girl joined them, from one of their neighbouring clans admittedly, but a doughty literary warrior nonetheless. She was welcomed amongst them. But what was this? A pale figure strode towards the table. Confident. Pride in her abilities showed through her every facet. A conjuror of words, a sylph of synonyms; the high priestess of homophones. She had selected our table. We were honoured indeed. Nervous glances were exchanged.

The VillageWe looked into the distance surveying the vista that stretched towards the towering volcano that glowered like an angry giant on the horizon. A hush descended like dusk in winter, covering the room with a blanket of silence. The object of our morning come into view, his voice soft and lilting as he recommended us to listen to the wind (was it wind?) smell the smoke (was it smoke?) that snaked lazily up from a distant chimney and look downwards towards a glistening and glimmering pool of water (was it water?) that moved like silk beneath our feet.

Simile“Those leaves look like they’re struggling to break free from those trees.” he whispered towards us, his voice undulating and flowing like oil into our ears. “Are they…are they really struggling to break free?” The gathered troop looked at each, all unsure, what did he want us to say? We shook our heads nervously and looked around for guidance. There was none. His eyebrows raised, almost concurring, at our shaking heads and a grin almost cracked his face in two. “But it doesn’t stop us from saying does it!?” No we thought, it doesn’t. The spell was cast the blanket was lifted and the room erupted into life. We magiced similes and metaphors out of thin air and sent them spiralling giddily around the room. We listened and responded with shouts of “Aaar….Simile Timbers!” and “Rark….Metaphor” while contorting our faces into almost Woosteresque naivety. The talk…the words flowed like fine wine. All of us to a man (or woman) contributed and not one of us felt the fear. The fear of talk, the shadow that had haunted us for so long. Our guest from down the corridor raised her voice, silence…the floor was hers She delivered her lines like a Shakespearean. Loud and confident. A smile on her face as she realised she’d done it. The man, at the head of the table, could not have been prouder.
WritingWe talked longer and longer delving around the Kingdom that we found ourselves in. Casting thoughts and feelings about with reckless entusiasm we relished in the sounds of our own voices, not wanting to let go. But stop it did. The time for talk was over. It was truly time for those individuals to prove their mettle. They all reached out and grasped their pens and pencils, feverishly ripping open their books (some of them did not even write a date or learning objective!!) and they started. To. Write. All of them. Grownups. Young ones and all those in-between and above. The quiet fell like the frontage of a house onto Buster Keaton.

There was no sound, but if you listened carefully a scratching faint at first, but raising…the sound of pen connecting with paper…There were no complaints – no one exclaimed they couldn’t do it, no one asked for help, they just wrote. When it was time to hear these musings, what things they had written. Carefully crafted similes mixed with the sights and sounds (and smells) of this unfamiliar land we had entered. Nuggets of the finest descriptomite dripped from every page, oozed from every line, exuded from every pen-tip. However, what hung onto every mouth were not similes, but smiles! Smiles as broad as they were long and long as they were broad. Smiles that lit up the room, showing off not only the whites of teeth but the joy of just writing.
CelebratingSo it had ended, the troop had returned to their natural environment. Prowling back up the corridor confidently, like Lions, voices soaring like swallows they swarmed home. The trick, the man thought to himself, is to keep this going…
…and that I think is the point. To keep it going. To allow children to be excited about writing and the process of writing. To talk about what they will write and give them purpose and reason in their creations. To allow their characters to come to life and for them to give birth to settings that are as real and as integral to their stories as possible.

To slow them down and describe every fairies wing beat and pixies breath, every detectives’ decision and every villains motive, every pirates promise and every cabin boys heroics…to allow them to forget (for that writing moment) what a fronted adverbial is, but to use them with wild abandon in their writing. Writing is a beautiful art, one that if we are taught well stays with us for a lifetime. It can sometimes be forgotten, but thank you Tim and Sarah for allowing me to remember…

A massive THANK YOU to James and his team for these reflections.


Wallingford Partnership of Schools, Oxfordshire ~ Day 2

| January 5, 2016 | 0 Comments 

Wallingford Partnership Day 2

Superb to be back at It is great at Fir Tree Junior School, with The Wallingford Partnership spending time with the teachers from the partnership and the children from Fir Tree Junior School and St Nicholas’ CE Infant School.

Sat in amoungst

WritingThey have placed the emphasis of our visit on the teaching, and learning, experiences that can happen when using games as a stimulus. So, it was a joy to spend a second day, working alongside the children of the school, with the “big people” dotted in amongst them, joining in, mucking in, modelling, scribing, and taking part in all of the experiences.

Today, we went all analog. After a full on day, yesterday, introducing ourselves to a vast plethora of digital delights, we reverted back to our “scribbly stick”, put pen to paper, and concentrated on the art of bending, blending, extending and attending to the magical power of words.

Sat in amongst Y2Teachers, and learning assistants, writing alongside children means that those children get to see that writing isn’t something we inflict upon them, and then go off and do something “far more interesting”. Some of our children have never seen what “enjoying writing” looks like. To sit together, share the struggle, and the delight in successes, is a simple, but potentially powerful, experience.

CharacterMarvelous magic took place again in these sessions. Picking up words, ideas, and thoughts, and then juggling with them, …takes courage. A huge well done to all of the folk here today, whatever size, whatever age, whatever ability, for exploring the terrain of text in inventive ways.

Yesterday we had a chance to explore a swathe of digital delights. Games are but one method of enhancing the imaginative spirit of our children. When paired with some of the other potential that the wonders of web2.0 offer, magic can ensue. There have been some superb magicians over these two days!

A special thank you to headteacher, Nilofer Khan for her smiles, observations and enthusiam over the two days working with her children and colleagues.

Wallingford Partnership of Schools, Oxfordshire ~ Day 1

| January 4, 2016 | 6 Comments 

Wallingford Partnership of Schools

A big THANK YOU to Nilofer Khan Headteacher, Fir Tree Junior School, Wallingford, the Wallingford Partnership of Schools, and those who joined us today, to start off 2016 in style!

Benson C of E Primary, Crowmarsh Gifford CE Primary, St Nicholas’ Infants, St John’s Primary, Cholsey Primary, Brightwell-cum-Sotwell Primary, Whitchurch Primary and The Manor

Folk round here are doing some REMARKABLE things in the face of challenging times, and misconceptions. We are honoured to know such inventive, inspiring educators.

It just goes to show that with the right stimulus and input, many of the children will write not just because their teacher wants them to, not even because it’s about a computer game, but because they have been challenged and inspired and want to write for themselves.

School and home life is not, and shouldn’t be, all about technology. However, if we, as educators, do not keep up with some of the skills, interests, passions, and playful times of our pupils (those who are lucky enough, it has to be said, to have access to these technologies) then our classrooms will appear stagnant environments, in comparison to their homes.

There was certainly a shared desire to tackle the challenge of pupil engagement today. Well done all.

We worked with Nilofer way back in 2007 and 2008! so it was good to be back with her for these two days:

“The Wallingford Partnership of Schools is getting ready to welcome Tim Rylands. As a partnership we pride ourselves in the professional development we offer our teachers and when we saw Tim at our Oxfordshire Head’s conference in Stratford last year, we grabbed the opportunity to book him for a two day inset for our partnership and opened it up for other schools to join us. We strongly believe in giving our staff professional development that can ignite and nurture their creativity. Tim’s ICT to Inspire is just what we were looking for. On the second day Tim will be teaching a year 2 and a year 6 class, giving the teachers an opportunity to see him in action at what he does best-teach! We have been looking forward to the 4th and 5th of January-a good start to the new term and to 2016”

Phoenix Integrated Primary, Cookstown, Northern Ireland

| November 20, 2015 | 6 Comments 

Phoenix IPS

A massive THANK YOU to Heather Watson, Principal of Phoenix Integrated Primary, for being up for organising a training day, with colleagues from around the area.

Heather WatsonPhoenix Integrated Primary School is situated in Cookstown, Co Tyrone, Northern Ireland. A young, growing school with 215 pupils focused on providing high quality learning experiences for every child. Passionate about CPD for all staff, we seized the opportunity to work with Tim and Sarah welcomed 50 teachers from 30 schools to join us for a day of inspiration.

What an awesome day! Fast paced but fun, Tim and Sarah engaged the audience from the moment they started. Everyone was enthralled and inspired as they guided us through an exciting journey of how technology can open up a whole new dimension of learning for children. Every teacher needs a day like today; time out to reflect and recharge their creative energy. In the words of Tim Brighouse, ‘teaching can sometimes be an incredibly lonely job. It can stifle creativity’. At Phoenix we have a reputation of inviting teachers from other schools to learn together. By opening doors and creating meaningful opportunities to connect with each other we hope to reignite that spark of creativity, creating a supportive professional community. Looking forward to the next step – what to do with all the wonderful ideas? We can’t wait to see them come alive in our classrooms and hope Tim and Sarah will come back to visit us again soon (…and come to Donegal with us for a ‘wee’ road trip!)

Folk round here are doing some REMARKABLE things in the face of challenging times. We are honoured to know such inventive, inspiring educators.

It just goes to show that with the right stimulus and input, many of the children will write not just because their teacher wants them to, not even because it’s about a computer game, but because they have been challenged and inspired and want to write for themselves.

School and home life is not, and shouldn’t be, all about technology. However, if we, as educators, do not keep up with some of the skills, interests, passions, and playful times of our pupils (those who are lucky enough, it has to be said, to have access to these technologies) then our classrooms will appear stagnant environments, in comparison to their homes.

There was certainly a shared desire to tackle the challenge of pupil engagement today. Well done all.

Thank you to folk from St. Colum’s Primary School, Termoncanice Primary School, St Patrick’s Primary School, Donaghmore, Mount St. Michael’s Primary School, St Mary’s Primary School, Maghera, Spires Integrated Primary School, Enniskillen Integrated Primary School, Windsor Hill Primary School, Roe Valley Integrated Primary School, Ballysally Primary School, Killowen Primary School, St Colmcille’s Primary School, Claudy, Kilmoyle Primary School, Holy Trinity Primary School, Christ the Redeemer Primary School, St. Columba’s Primary School, Kilrea, Cairnshill Primary School, Portadown Integrated Primary School, Millburn Primary School, St Dympna’s Primary School, Dromore, Carryduff Primary School, Castledawson Primary School, Lough View Integrated Primary School, Oakwood Integrated Primary School, Drumlins Integrated Primary School, St Colmcilles Primary School, Omagh, Harmony Hill Primary School, Millennium Integrated Primary School, Hazelwood Integrated Primary School, Cookstown Primary School and Drumlish Primary School.

John Hellins Primary, Northamptonshire ~ Day 2

| November 3, 2015 | 9 Comments 

John Hellins Primary School

John Hellins PrimaryA really fun day at John Hellins Primary and travels through mysterious lands, with the children across different age ranges of the school.

A darkened room, dancing sound effects, haunting music enhancing the atmosphere, and we’re ready to go who knows where?

Today, we wandered in the world of wondrous words, with the children and staff, more a large amount of individuals in each session, yet, at times, you could hear a pin drop. Then, when an unexpected feature sprang to life, bubbling discussion and fizzing talk.

Our aim, on these two sessions in this group of schools, is to share tools, and techniques, that will add even more sparkle, magic and effective methods of bringing learning alive, to the toolkit that travels with the children and teachers.

One of the most rewarding ways to spend your working days. Teaching is a hard path, in many respects, on many occasions. Hours of extra preparation, planning and reflection. But, as Confucius said:

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life”.

Thank you to Jodie Matthews, Headteacher at John Hellins Primary School, for inviting us to work alongside the children and staff.

Well done all.

John Hellins Primary, Northamptonshire ~ Day 1

| November 2, 2015 | 4 Comments 

John Hellins Primary School

John Hellins PrimaryFantastic, to spend two days with John Hellins Primary School, Potterspury, (in the district of South Northamptonshire with Milton Keynes as the nearest main town.)

We were joined by colleagues from visiting schools, including Deanshanger Primary School, Yardley Gobion CE Primary School, Towcester C of E Primary School, Bugbrooke, Glapthorn C.E. Lower School, Rothersthorpe Primary School, The Abbey Primary School, Havelock Infant School, Havelock Junior School and East Hunsbury Primary School.

 


Thank you to Jodie Matthews, Headteacher at John Hellins Primary School:

Jodie MatthewsJohn Hellins is a village primary school in South Northamptonshire. Our ethos is simple – we strive to be the best we can be in everything we do and in all aspects of school life. We set ourselves challenging targets and have extremely high expectations of ourselves. School life at John Hellins is exciting, motivating and inspiring and is full of real life and immersive learning experiences.

Our staff are passionate about their own learning and development, and connect with other educators on Twitter; this is how we first connected with Tim. Following our 4 year talk for writing journey we are ready to take our writing one step further. We feel that adding tech to our writing journey will bring some marvellous results, particularly with those children who struggle to engage. It’s exciting to see where this will take us!

On our 2 days with Tim and Sarah, we will be joined by the staff from Deanshanger Primary School and teachers from several other local schools. We are excited by the opportunity this will give us for collaborative working.

Springline Partnership of Schools, Oxfordshire ~ Day 2

| October 21, 2015 | 1 Comment 

Stockham Primary

Following an INSET Day in September 2015, today a day of lessons and further training for Springline Partnership of Schools at Stockham Primary School, Wantage.The 8 schools include Stockham School, Stanford in the Vale, St Amands Catholic School, The Hendreds Primary, Fitzwaryn Special School, Grove Church of England School, Uffington Primary and The Ridgeway CE School.

Thanks again to Ruth Burbank, head teacher at Stockham for coordinating our visit.

Characters in the villageWe travelled, with classes of Year 5 and 6, and their “big people”, through a land that went beyond the virtual and became so real we could see it, hear it, but also smell it, touch it, feel it, and build some powerful language within it. The mysterious, yet peaceful, village we found ourselves standing in, inspired some lovely extended writing, speaking and listening, role play, and inventiveness.

In fact, we didn’t actually move very far, just turned and took two steps. That is the aim really: Not to move too much. Rather, to take time in a place. It is also a great reflection on the children and staff today. They didn’t NEED to move. They were more than able to use words, humour, imagination, and character to make us feel we had gone many miles.

The afternoon, and we had the pleasure of spending time with the Year 2 pupils and their teachers. What stylish word play followed. We looked at how to stretch an idea beyond the initial temptation to “stick” at he first word. To “twist” our thoughts, and “come up trumps“. When exploring this land, and later, with the teachers, we also considered how “time” is something we need to think about. Taking time, allowing each other time, not filling all of time, stretching time, enjoying different speeds of time.And, what an enjoyable time we had!


This combination: of a training day, paired up with a day of lessons, gives us a lot of opportunity to explore the power of the digital/analogue mix. We have always said that we don’t advocate using virtual worlds as an alternative to getting out and about in the analogue landscapes around us. (Although, it is a lot safer and a lot less insurance than a school trip!!) There is no better experience than taking a group of children out into the world. It is powerful, though, to see that the experiences children have within the classroom settings, and the structured way these activities develop speaking and listening skills, have a big effect on the way their classes take part in trips and camps. Groups of children sharing ideas and solving problems collaboratively and creatively, using some of the skills they have acquired in their “virtual travels”.

This group know about a the strong need for REAL experiences, enhanced by digital tools. The use of the landscapes and the modelling of questioning techniques enable the pupils’ imaginations to take flight. It was delightful to see children today write with abandon. But, you still can’t beat the real. We were impressed by the enthusiastic responses from the Stockham crew. They threw themselves into the challenges and came up with some inventive, imaginative ideas. All with a lot of laughter. Thanks folks!

Valley Road Primary, Oxfordshire ~ Day 2

| October 20, 2015 | 1 Comment 

Valley Road Primary

Valley Road PrimaryBack, for a day of lessons, at Valley Road Primary School, with the Y2 pupils and the Y5/6 pupils.

It is always a joy to watch “growded-ups” and children, take off and fly, with speaking and listening, writing, exploring, creating and more. Joined again by colleagues from schools from The Henley Partnership: Shiplake CE Primary, Trinity CE Primary, Sacred Heart Catholic Primary, Stephen Freeman Primary and Badgemore Primary.

“Verbal jazz”, the ability to make things up on the spur of the moment, is a skill that empowers every kind of person, in so many walks of life.


We need to encourage creating sentences, and ideas, as they go. Trying and flying. … … …

One of the techniques we use is to get children, or adults, to start talking when they get asked a question. For example, “Aha! A good question, my child…” said one of the characters today. He was young, but still got so much in to the role that we believed he was a grizzly, old retainer.

Valley Road Primary

levitating convincinglyThat “starting to talk”, rather than nervously umm-ing and ahh-ing whilst you wait for the words to come, means that you break your own nervous silence.

The words you want, and didn’t even know you had within you, appear to flop in to place behind those opening phrases.

“Start and the rest will follow”, seems to give confidence to even the most reluctant speakers.
The same principal also feeds ideas for even the most reluctant writers. Start, however stumbling you may feel, and you might find you are running with words in a short space of time.

(How about the lad, to the left, “hovering confidently”!)

Thanks again to Head Teacher Tim Coulson for the invitation to spend time with his delightful children and colleagues.

Thank you to the teachers for sharing their thoughts, both verbally and here for the blog:

Rosie Wilkinson from Badgemore Primary:

During the two day training with Tim and Sarah I have been excited, amazed and quite frankly, blown away by all of the new and interesting ways of including technology into the classroom. As a self diagnosed technophobe the thought of putting this into practice unnerved me, but,  I got home after day 1 and immediately downloaded some of the apps that Tim and Sarah had introduced to us and started working out how to use them and deciding on different lesson ideas and teaching techniques.
Day 2 was all about observing and joining in with Tim’s teaching and it was fantastic. I felt not only like I was learning a huge amount but I could see how much the children were gaining from the teaching and it was hugely beneficial to see how I could implement different aspects of technology and different techniques into my teaching.

Carolyne Harrison from  Stephen Freeman Primary:

I have had an incredibly inspirational and usable experience learning and applying some amazing tech and ideas. All stuff that is instantly applicable in the classroom. From using a cup to drink out of to give a child time to extend and develop their ideas to tech that allows the class mascot to speak to them. The techniques used to give the children a chance to think and process and by the time you want them to write they are chomping at the bit, ALL of them! Full immersion into a world where you can wonder what’s up there, where does that go, how long has it been there and how can we get there and acting out our verbs and adverbs with purpose. There are so many ideas it would be impossible to go through them all but I am planning to try all of them over the next millennium!

Tim Hoskins from Badgemore Primary:

I don’t have a Facebook or Twitter account and I would rather go for a walk than play a computer game. However, working with Tim and Sarah has been inspirational. I have been exposed to so many awesome computing ideas that are simple to use (minimal planning time) incredibly child-friendly (great for behavior management) and free (no need to fill in any expenses form.)
This is a must experience for any teachers who intend to carry on teaching in the future. Unfortunately, IT stuff is changing faster than the primary school curriculum.