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Schools in Northern Ireland ~ Belfast

| November 16, 2015 | Add Your Thoughts 

Ashfield Girls Secondary School Belfast

We were honoured today to be invited to visit schools in Belfast, to see what they are up to with their use of technology to enhance lessons.

We started at  Ashfield Girls Secondary School, Belfast.

Ashfield Girls Principal is Mrs Alison Mungavin. The school is an all-Girls Secondary school.

Technology in Ashfield Girls’ provides opportunities for pupils to expand their knowledge beyond the boundaries of a classroom; allows flexibility and freedom to teachers who can adapt the pace and challenge of a lesson to suit the individual pupils; creates an excitement and purpose for learning and most importantly prepares pupils for the inevitable technological infused lifestyle of the 21st Century.

However, it’s not simply within the classroom environment in Ashfield Girls’ – it permeates and infuses every aspect of school life. Relationships with parents and involvement from parents in the life of the school in enhanced by software we have invested in, such as teachers2parents text service and Show My Homework.

The leadership team has a clear vision for the way in which technology can enhance teaching and learning and this is understood and shared by the staff and students. The strategies adopted are fully consistent with the vision and are being effectively implemented. There is a particular focus on applications of technology that reduce the administrative burden on teachers and frees them to focus on effective teaching. Particularly effective use is made of the Fronter VLE to allow staff within departments to share resources. The school also makes very effective use of technology to extend the learning window and ensure that parents are well-informed about expectations with regard to homework. Students really value the fact that they are able to catch up online if they have missed a lesson and feel that the use of technology in many subjects increases their motivation and engagement as well as enabling them to demonstrate their achievement in a variety of ways.

The school has made particularly effective use of Accelerated Reader to improve reading in KS3. By linking this use closely to special needs support and carefully targeting the pupils who can benefit most, the school has achieved significant gains. The strategy of ensuring that staff are well trained in the use of mobile technologies before rolling these out across the school has meant that the class sets of iPads that have now been purchased are being used very effectively in many subjects. The school has taken a mature approach to the use of mobile phones in school and students are allowed to use their phone cameras with teacher permission to record work – for example in science practical activities. In addition to the widespread use of Fronter, 6th form science students are linked to the Blackboard VLE at the University of Ulster so that they can benefit from the materials it contains.

We then headed on to Harberton Special School, Belfast

Their Principal is Mr M McGlade. This school is a truly special school.

In Harberton Special School and Outreach Services the use of technology to transform and enhance teaching and learning is a major part of the school ethos. It is a high preference on the school strategic plan and the school development plan. Both these long term and medium term plans inform the yearly action plan for the school(see attachment – ICT section of the schools yearly action plan). These plans ensure that the use of technologies and ICT are embedded across the curriculum in all curriculum areas. This emphasis of the use of technology is encouraged from all aspect of the school’s management structure. These plans are shared with all stakeholders involved in the school. They are ratified by the board of governors, published on the school website, shared with parents as part of a yearly report, displayed on the school notice board and submitted to the Education Authority. An ICT handbook is provided to all members of staff which clearly states the schools high expectations on the effective and innovative use of technologies across the curriculum and in all departments. The school has made substantial investments in new innovative technologies.

The creative use of technology is transforming the life chances of pupils in this Special school. It is a key component of providing access to learning for many children with complex needs and the school has utilised an array of both simple and sophisticated technologies to improve their young peoples’ engagement, motivation, behaviour and attainment. It was also clear technology played a key role in tracking pupils’ progress – of particular importance in a context where learning gains can be of massive significance even when they are relatively small, incrementally. The use of Green Screen technology to immerse children in situations that would otherwise be precluded and the use of QR codes to make a discovery journey around a shared outdoor learning area an interactive rather than passive experience were just two examples of the very many ways the embedding of technology was helping Harberton’s youngsters, and its staff, to make learning and teaching an exciting and rewarding experience. The school has managed to prioritise impact by the judicious use of targeted investment and evaluated how effective it is – ensuring technology is delivering improved outcomes.

There were many things that impressed about Harberton – not least a quite superb, dedicated, hard-working group of staff who gave tirelessly of themselves to help their children; but, in terms of technology focus, most impressive amongst these were (i) the use of robots to engage learners with communication challenges and (ii) how technology used as part of a rewards strategy was helping to improve the achievement of Autistic youngsters with challenging behaviour. The latter was presented to us by one student on behalf of another who was ill on the day of our visit – and his efforts to explain what he saw as how his friend’s experience of school had been transformed was both humbling and inspirational.

In the afternoon, we had a meeting with C2k elearning team.

The C2K project and Capita provide the infrastructure and services to support the enhanced use of ICT in schools in Northern Ireland.

It was also good to visit The Titanic Centre for a seminar run through for tomorrow, especially as our presentation will be seen by so many schools across Northern Ireland.

A big thank you to Lynsey Parkes, Senior Marketing Executive at Capita Managed IT Solutions for organising our day and to Glenn Parkinson who was responsible for hosting the day, and did so in style.

Thanks too to: Steve Moss, Steve Smith, Glenn Parkinson, Averil Morrow, and a few others for “time out’ later.

Taking a break & Breaking break times…

| November 14, 2015 | Add Your Thoughts 

Nolan Bushnell, the founder of Atari, once said a profound, and challenging, thing:

“Everyone who has ever taken a shower has had an idea. It’s the person who gets out of the shower, dries off, and does something about it that makes a difference.”

It’s not just the getting on and doing it. The thinking time is important too.

I have had an enforced break being checked over in hospital, and am very glad to be out. Thinking time maybe.

How many times have you been stuck with something, gone out for a walk, and, on your return, almost without conscious thought, you have solved at least one aspect of that conundrum?

The same can be true for our students.

A child, stuck on a science riddle, or a new concept of fractions, might be stuck now, but, when they head out to play, something can still be working away, within them, to the extent that, when they return to the classroom, something has clicked in their thinking.

But, …it’s too late. We have moved on to another subject.

The idea of needing a bit of time to think, to consider, to form thoughts, and ideas, is real, and could have a simple, yet effective, impact on some lesson, and curriculum, structures.

We have discovered, through practical experimentation, that reshuffling lesson starts, and finishes, independently of break times, has had a positive, and encouraging effect on children’s thinking through problems, and problem solving.

By having a few minutes, continuing with the subject, and challenges, from before “play”, “break”, “recess”, … has lead to some interesting comments, and results.

“Oh, Mr Rylands, I get it now!” … “I’ve been thinking about it. If I put this bit here…”

Building in a short “break” from the main task could have a similar effect.

Whilst this is not always practical because of time, staffing, equipment, and other restraints, when it has been possible, it has proven to be positive, and beneficial.

In an interview with the Ode Magazine, called “Reading, writing and playing The Sims: What video games can teach educators about improving our schools“, Nolan Bushnell kindly said he wished “his children had a teacher like Tim Rylands”.

Well, we have learned something from him

We all need to take breaks. If YOU can, hope it’s a good one. Hopefully, when we come back after our “shower”, we will have had a chance to regroup, and will carry on building what we do,… … and even better.

John Hellins Primary, Northamptonshire ~ Day 2

| November 3, 2015 | Add Your Thoughts 

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.

Scribble Maps & Scribble Maps Pro

| November 2, 2015 | Add Your Thoughts 

Scribble Maps is a free, and easy, way to add drawings, comments, markers, highlights, text, timelines and more, to maps. It takes very little time to master, and gives children the chance to annotate locations from across the globe.

ScribbleMaps pro, adds extra features but, unlike a lot of apps, where the “pro” badge means you pay for the upgrade, this version is also available for free. In pro, you can import files, such as KML files, that you have created in Google Maps and Google Earth, and draw, or add layers of images, on to your maps.

Useful for marking routes of school trips, ancient travel exploration journies, and more.

John Hellins Primary, Northamptonshire ~ Day 1

| November 2, 2015 | Add Your Thoughts 

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.

Doodle ~ collaborative doing or not

| November 1, 2015 | Add Your Thoughts 

Thank you to Claus Berg for recommending Doodle, when we were arranging times to plan our events in Denmark. Doodle is a very quick, and efficient, way of gathering arranging a time for a meeting.

Doodle eliminates the chaos that comes from scheduling and saves you a lot of time and energy when you’re trying to find a time to bring a number of people together.

doodleInstead of using just one option, you can propose several dates and times and the participants can indicate their availability online.

Must go. We have a meeting to attend!

A whiteboard sensory experience ~ Beautiful Curves

| October 26, 2015 | Add Your Thoughts 

Beautiful Curves is a living art experience, sending almost organic curving lines dancing around lines you draw.

This would make a great sensory experience, on a whiteboard, for those who would enjoy, and benefit from triggering, controlling and creating their own curling, twirling, flowing, growing, art works.

Experiment with the parameters and you might find other uses, such as exploring letter formation…

Vyew ~ collaborate in style

| October 23, 2015 | Add Your Thoughts 

Vyew allows you to meet and share content in real-time or anytime. Upload images, files, documents and videos into a room. Users can access and contribute at anytime.

It’s easy – no installations and can be used on PC, Mac, Linux, working with powerpoints, documents, images, videos, mp3′s, flash files.

  • It’s FREE! – The free version is “free forever”. Upgrade to remove advertising and raise your user limits.
  • Conferencing features – whiteboarding, video conferencing, screen sharing, Voice-over-IP.
  • Collaboration features – continuous rooms are always saved and always-on. Contextual discussion forums, voice-notes, track and log activity. Give it a go and let me know.

Rhyme n Learn – 25 squeaky clean maths and science raps

| October 22, 2015 | Add Your Thoughts 

Rhyme ‘n Learn, (“Music That Puts The Cool Back In School”), is maths and science taught by mnemonics. Mnemonics use word associations like rhymes so that a term or fact is easier to recall later. An example of a mnemonic is “In fourteen hundred ninety two Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” or “Thirty days hath September. All the rest I can’t remember!”

Rhyme ‘n Learn was created by teacher Joe Ocando, who has taught maths and science to students of all ages and discovered that many find it difficult to memorize hundreds of new terms and facts. Rap seemed to help, and does seem to make some concepts easier to remember.

The concepts covered are more suited to older students Examples include Pi Rap | Don’t Let Pi Make Ya Cry and Rational and Irrational Numbers Rap | E-rational Thoughts

Type a maths or science term in the search bar on the site to find a mnemonic for it. If you can’t find it, send content suggestions to joe@rhymenlearn.com

Don’t forget another teacher led site “MathTrain”. Mathtrain.TV is a free educational “kids teaching kids” project from middle school mathematics teacher Eric Marcos & his students.

Both sites could be a great inspiration to students to create explanatory videos, or raps.

MathTrain

| October 21, 2015 | Add Your Thoughts 

Mathtrain.TV is a free educational “kids teaching kids” project from middle school mathematics teacher Eric Marcos & his students at Lincoln Middle School in Santa Monica, CA, U.S.A.

A great inspiration to other students to create their own explanatory videos too.

It is part of the Mathtrain.com Project and was created to host their student-created maths video lessons. It is Web 2.0 friendly with its ability for users to generate “ratings” and “comments”. The middle school students use a tablet pc and screen-capturing software, Camtasia Studio, to create the tutorials (screencasts or mathcasts) which are used for classroom instruction and posted onto sites such as Mathtrain.TV, Mathtrain.com, iTunes, YouTube, and TeacherTube

Students work hard at creating the content and construct the best explanations they can in an unscripted format. Some include captions.

Eric and his students invite other students and teachers, parents and educators to help contribute to this global collaborative effort. They are especially interested in student-created “mathcasts”, hence the “kids teaching kids” motto.

I have already learned LOADS,and that’s amazing: I took two mathematics exams, and failed all THREE of them! :-D

Springline Partnership of Schools, Oxfordshire ~ Day 2

| October 21, 2015 | Add Your Thoughts 

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!