So a few months ago I decided to set myself the challenge of learning to code. I’m from an age where coding just wasn’t something we learnt, computers did it all for you, there was no need to! Will changes to the curriculum I thought now would be a good time for me to learn.

I started off with a friend showing me a few bits. I found it helpful, but I could see he was itching to get me onto some of the cooler things you can do with code, meaning I was missing out on some of the more basic elements. I could see this was not going to be the way for me to learn. So I took to twitter and Google to try and find a website or course that could help my cause. After looking at a few the one I found to be best for me was Codecademy. Simply create a profile, choose a lesson and get started.

Being an avid gamer the thing i like best is unlocking achievements within the website. I love earning the little badges (i’m such a child!). The instructions are really easy and simple, and offer a step by step guide to learning the language. The practice board is well laid out, giving you instant results on whether you’ve got it right or not. You also have easy access to help and tips with the task, so if you completely forget how to do it you can remind yourself without stress. I always challenge myself not to press it though! So far I have learnt the basics of HTML and HTML styling, and I’m working my way up to having a go at CSS. Give it a few more months and I’m sure I’ll have a crack at designing my own web space.

While it’s great fun, though sometimes infuriating, there is a point to all this. Changes to the curriculum mean that coding and programming will become essential for teaching ICT. An ICT teacher can no longer just step into the role and go. I see it as a similar role to a Music specialist. Yes the core of all lessons is teaching, but you need to have the subject knowledge to deliver it. I know I could handle pupils in a music lesson, but give me a guitar and you’d be covering your ears! Would I get the most from the pupils? I doubt it.

How many of you can code? Are you learning or practicing? Will you be starting the learn soon? Please get in touch!

 

Incredibox is…well…incredible! Awesome little site where you can mix and match different Effects, Beats, Melodies, Chorus and Voices to create unique music in an acapella style. You music can be recorded, shared, downloaded with peers. A fun little lesson that will leave pupils wanting to come back and use it again and again. My year 6 class love using it, and it works well for me as a reward activity. From the musical side its great for matching beats and rhythms, and could be used as a fantastic music starter. Have fun with this!

outside

This week I got to go on a fantastic trip with my school. We took 9 pupils on a sailing ship for 3 days.

We went out on the Humber Estuary, and into the north sea. The children loved it. They spent their days as crew of the boat leaving myself and another teacher to supervise. Due to the small space on the boat the sleeping arrangements felt more like camping than being at sea, so on an evening we had great fun playing games and having family style meals.

But then my ICT teacher brain kicked in. Before we set of I grabbed the case of iPods and iPads and stashed them away on the back of the coach. I could resist the chance of some 1st class outdoor technology learning. So I though I would share how we used them on our trip to give you some ideas for yours.

  1. Google Maps – We followed our route from the school to the Dock, then when out at sea we were able to see where were in relation to the coast. 
  2. Geotagging – On one of the evenings we took the dingy to shore and tagged our location in an email back to the school.
  3. Journals – On an evening pupils wrote a quick paragraph of their day and then sent it back to their school email. This was then picked up on our return and used in their English lessons
  4. Video Diary – Pupils spent some time telling anecdotes of their day using the front facing cameras on the iPods. rather than a full diary entry we were sharing what interesting things happened to them.
  5. Evening Games – We spent the evening playing games with the pupils. Some classics like ‘Pass the Squeeze’ and ‘I’m having a Party’, but then we moved on and started using the iPads. We used Brushes to play Pictionary, as well as asking them to draw a scene from the day.
  6. Sailing lesson – As part of the trip pupils we asked to learn about the boat and how it worked. They aided their lessons by using the internet to research and share what they were looking at.

All of this was brilliant for me to see as their ICT teacher but it took some setting up. Obviously we made sure we had enough chargers and docking stations with us, and checked with the captain that we were able to use his electricity storage for this. We also brought with us some of the Mi-Fi boxes to provide the pupils with internet access. Remember – fail to prepare, and prepare to fail!

Have you used technology outside of school? Could you think of another way my group could have used them on the boat?

 

 

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So yesterday I visited bMobLe for the 1st time…and loved it! A fantastic assembly of geeks! I recently moved to Bradford to teach so it was great for me to meet and chat with fellow geeks in the area. One of the main things I took from the event was the amount of technology and learning taking place. The previous LA I worked under was so far off what goes on in Bradford it’s unbelievable! I can’t wait to get my teeth stuck in and get to work!

It was also great seeing my digital leaders in action. They were there to present on the work they have started, and what they like to do as part of the project. I have never seen anyone so calm when about to present in front of a crowd. They really didn’t care about how many people were there, and at one point even went around trying to drum up more interest in their work.

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What really made me chuckle though was talking to them afterwards about how they got on. I obviously asked how they thought it went, were they nervous, what they enjoyed best? That last question gave me a brilliant answer, what did they enjoy best……….the free pens and the stress balls. Forget the successful presentation, massive round of applause and real interest in their work, where are the pens at?! Another highlight was seeing them attack some Ipads, I have never been so worried/wanted Ipad protection to work so badly!

imagesThe teachmeet at the end of the day was the thing I will take most from though. The amount of ideas, hints, and inspiration I got in just a few hours was fantastic. As this was my 1st go at a teachmeet (a TM virgin as Dughall put it) I did bottle it and fail to present, but I  PROMISE I will contribute next time. Now I know the level and depth of items presented I am going to have to work very hard to find something to impress and astound.

As good as the meet was, the bits in between were just as good for 2 reasons. 1, The food was delicious. 2, I got to meet some of my favourite twitter peoples and had some wonderful discussions about our routes into teaching, how we use social media, and e-safety.

 

At the end of the day I was tired, full of curry, and ready for a good sleep. However all I could think about where what I wanted to put into action straight away, and how much I had got out of the day. On the day the organisation was fantastic and our pupils were looked after really well, and I have to thank the Bradford boys for that, well done! I look forward to the next one!

 

Over the past few years I have been a big fan of pupils blogging, both internally through our VLE system and publicly. I have seen some major benefits in learning and I want to share with you some of the key reasons you should start, and maybe a few tips to help you on your way. There can be some pit falls, but when it work it WORKS! Lets go through some of the reasons you should start:

Helps to develop writing skills

Obviously writing a blog will give pupils opportunity to improve the quality of their writing. If the topic of the blog is something they are interested in mean they will get passionate about what they write. With peers in their classroom looking at their blogs it will give them responsibility over what they write. Adding a rating system will also improve this. Do people like what they are writing? What could they do to improve? Speaking to pupils about putting their work publicly online can also be an inspiration for improved writing. Let them know the whole world could see it, is it good enough for that?

Showcase for pupils work

Giving pupils a blog gives them an open forum to share their world worldwide (potentially!). Often when pupils complete work in the classroom that’s where it stays, not even parents know what has been going on until parents evening! With a blog pupils can post their work and their audience knows no bounds. It could be a simple as the class next door, to schools on the other side of the world. If you make comments available it also allows for these schools to leave feedback on your children’s work, a different look at peer assessment.  when a child receives a positive comment on their blog it goes far beyond anything I could say as their teacher!

Encourages independent thinking

Blogging in the classroom can really inspire pupils to become independent in their learning and thinking. When they are able to publish what they have an interest in they take ownership of the quality of their work. They take the lead when finding the required information, think about how they want to present their work, and what they want to include in their posts.

Inspires learning 

Using a blog in your class allows for teaching and learning to take place simultaneously with your pupils. By using research skills, multimedia posts, instant feedback and comments your pupils are teaching others around them as well as learning without realising it! If you train your pupils to leave good questions and effective feedback on posts, you are allowing pupils to take on the role of student and teacher.

Engages with your wider community

With OFSTED taking a greater look at how your school gets involved with the local community a blog is a great start. You could start blogging to other classes in your school, posts to parents, communicating and sharing work with other schools around you. Get comments back from parents and people who live in the area. Linking your blog on your school website is a great way to ensure you get traffic.

 

Now here are a few quick tips to make your blog successful: 

  1. Use a wide range of media in your posts, not just text
  2. Find a platform that is easy and engaging for your pupils, do they want to use it?
  3. Connect your blog to your school website
  4. Start up links with other classes and schools
  5. Stick with it, it might take some time to take off
  6. End your post with a question to encourage comments and feedback
  7. Teach them how to use the platform before you go public.
  8. Tell parents about the project, get them involved early. Its more than likely they will be the ones commenting to begin with!
  9. Gets pupils to look at other blogs for inspiration
  10. Teach pupils about the importance of drafting, then posting.

 

I hope that’s enough to get you started, and has given you some ideas to try out with your class. If you think I’ve missed something, or have a specific question please get in touch, I love a comment as much as the kids do!

 

 

Geocube…… re-inventing the way to explore Geography

The world of Geography at your fingertips and just a mouse click away!

Geocube is an attractive online resource about Geography. Geocube is based on the principle of the Rubik Cube with six faces and 54 topics. It is a virtual and easily accessible website which is available online for free. Move the Geocube around with your mouse and explore the faces and topics.Geocube provides an accessible way to read, see and watch what Geography is and geographers do.

Brilliant to use in research lessons, and great for pupils to interact and share their learning with each other. The interface is slick and easy to use and keeps pupils engaged in the learning.

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I recently had the pleasure of taking 2 groups of year 1 children out to do some individual handwriting practice, one LA and one HA group. To do this I used a couple of apps I have been meaning to try out for a while, I used ‘abcjoinedup’ and ‘Letter Practice’. Both of them are wonderful to use with pupils, but with different abilities and for different purposes.

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Letter Practice

With the lower ability group I used Letter Practice. this worked well with this age and ability. When I explained the task pupils were really excited about using the iPads (usual reaction!), and appear confident in using them. The class I worked with use them on a regular basis so they were happy to use them again. The app worked particularly well with 2 new to English EAL pupils. After a discussion with their teacher I was told they have little confidence when writing the letters in the classroom, and it was good for him to see their progress on this platform. After the session the pupils were very happy with their progress, and couldn’t wait to show their teacher! I would really recommend this app.

 

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abcjoinedup

With the higher ability group the pupils used abcjoined up. This app is much more detailed, and allowed for further development with the pupils. Rather than just writing the letters this app makes the user thing about writing words and combinations of letters in cursive handwriting. Pupils loved being able to follow the text with helpful arrows and said it made the process much easier for them. One pupils stated that he ‘finds it difficult coz he doesn’t understand what the teacher means by up and round’. While using the app pupils really developed the motions required to draw the shapes, but after a discussion with their teacher we worked next steps. We decided that using a stylus with the ipad would help them understand holding a pen and drawing the letters.

Overall I really enjoyed the session with the group and they seemed to enjoy it. The overriding theme from the session was that the children enjoyed the freedom of using both apps. They liked having the freedom to make mistakes that would disappear and allow them to start again.

 

Have you used any Ipad handwriting apps? How have you found them? Any you can recommend? 

snappy wordsWhat is Snappy Words visual English dictionary?

It’s an online interactive English dictionary and thesaurus that helps you find the meanings of words and draw connections to associated words. You can easily see the meaning of each by simply placing the mouse cursor over it.

Why use Snappy Words visual dictionary?

  • Easy to use dictionary and thesaurus.
  • Learn how words associate in a visually interactive display.
  • Get ideas to help write content for your blog, article, thesis or simply play with words!
  • No limit on number of searches. Look up as many words as you need anytime.
  • It’s free and fun!

How do I use it?

Type words in the search box and click Go or simply hit Enter. Once the words branch off the main query, you can double click a node to find other related words. To explore the features:

  1. Place the mouse cursor over a word to view the meaning.
  2. Double click a node from the branch to view other related words.
  3. Scroll the mouse wheel over words to zoom in or out. This helps you see more
    associations or view words and meanings more clearly.
  4. Click and drag a word or branch to move it around and explore other branches.

toadLove this website! Animate, rotate and zoom through hundreds of different objects. Get pupils to play and explore with items you will very rarely have in school. The image quality is great, and the level of detail is more than enough for pupils to engage with. A site likes this works great when using Aurasma, really good for an image board.

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