The Magnetism of Magnets

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Photo Credit: Sean Kenney
Don’t worry – No storytelling, dialogue, poetry, digital mime or other bizarre writing styles in this post! No. Today I bring you an exciting new unit plan (well at least I think it is exciting) that I have altered and tweaked. ‘Altered’ and ‘tweaked’ are two highly apt terms when it comes to writing about this particular plan. This is perhaps due to the fact that this unit was already changed in a major way, by my excellent Year Three colleagues and I, last year!

What I have done, with the plan, is to try and make it more collaborative; with a heavier focus on digital connectivity and Zen presentation.
 

Questions to be answered:

Why do you think this unit is a good possibility for your Course 5 project?

Primarily because this unit offers great opportunities for the students to connect and collaborate with each other in a way that uses many of the learning theories encountered in the COETAIL course.

What are some of your concerns about redesigning this unit?

My biggest concern is with the final part of the unit where the students have to present their results and conclusions to the audience. If I am honest, I’m still not sure that the Zen Presentation style is the best method for the students to present their results to an audience. Also, I am still unsure about the exact nature of the audience the students will present to i.e. Do I want a live audience focus or would a digital audience focus be better for this unit?

What shifts in pedagogy will this new unit require from you?

The biggest shift in pedagogy will be the home learning element. I will have to be very clear about this aspect of the collaborative learning process. I’m still not sure exactly how this part will work i.e. Should I make the home collaboration and connectivity a compulsory part of their learning or should I leave it up to the students to decide how much they want to engage with this aspect of the learning?

What skills and/or attitudes will this new unit require from your students?

The students will need to actively work in a team/group; they will have to demonstrate their ability to connect and work with each other (to a greater or lesser degree) outside the classroom. Also, those students who are taking the research option are going to have to learn an entirely new method for investigating scientific questions.

To summarise:

Although we aren’t actually due to teach this unit until the second half of the spring term, I am really looking forward to seeing what the children’s attitudes will be like when it comes to mixing up independent work, collaborative work, connected learning and Zen presentation – A marvellously magnetic mixture of learning methods…

Footsteps in a new land…

Photo credit: Greenmangaming

Before the coming

Across fierce seas, that battered and broke our small boats, we came. It took us many months of travel to arrive here – many did not make it! Now we have set foot in our new land. We are tired from the long journey but we look forward to putting down roots and settling in this new world. We will establish a mighty nation in this place. We will carve our names upon the walls of history…But first we need to decide where we will settle?

After the coming

We know that we need water for drinking and crops! Perhaps we should build our city near a river or lake? After all the river and lake would also provide us with fish and a means to travel from one part of this new land to another!

But what about crocodiles and flooding?

Ah but flooding is a good thing – it replenishes the crops and leaves behind a thick black mud that will allow the crops to grow strong and healthy.

What about our houses?

We will build them from wood.

That means we need to be near a forest or woodland area.

But how do we get the wood to make our new houses?

Why don’t we cut down the trees? We could build tools like axes or swords to cut down the trees?

We would need durable materials to make theses tools. The tools would have to be sharp and strong!

What about wooden axes and swords? We could use sharpened wood to cut the trees down.

No wood isn’t durable enough. They would break! We need rocks, stone and metal to cut down the trees!

Where do we get these materials from?

Mountains – we need Mountains. They will have these materials! We need to build mines in the mountains so that we can get the rocks from the earth. But remember that the rocks should be igneous or metamorphic rocks because they are more durable.

We could also build roads with the stone we mine. This means we could get to places quicker and faster.

If we move to new areas, we could also build new towns and cities so our population could increase.

leaders must be chosen

Who will decide where we should live? It should be those people who know the best place for us to settle!

And how will we know who they are?

Those people will use there problem solving skills to work out the best place for us to live.

And how will they do that?

Simple, they will use their understanding of the rocks (Rock Cycle unit in Science) and they will use their knowledge of Rivers and crops (History unit on Ancient Egypt) to help us understand the best place for us to live. They will also know what materials we should use to build our tools from (Science unit on materials).

These great people will also demonstrate that they understand what great leadership should be (Religious Education lesson on Guru Nanak and great leaders).

Very well. Let each group present their claim for knowing the best location for settlement. After each group has given us their reasons, we will decide as a whole people, who will be our leaders and where we will settle…

What was that all about?

I recently used the final lesson of our Ancient Egyptian unit as a PBL (problem based learning) lesson. The idea was to really get the children to reflect, use and apply their learning to decide on the best location for a new settlement in a brand new world. The students were split into groups of three and given a copy of the map at the top of the page. They were then asked, towards the end of the session, to present their choices to the whole class explaining their reasons for choosing that location (I have included the lesson plan in a previous post as lesson 6 if you are interested in using it).

Conclusions

I think it is fair to say that PBL is a wonderful tool for wrapping up a unit and really finding out exactly what the students have learned. More importantly, it is a great method for getting students to use and apply previous knowledge to a real world problem that actually needs solving. I used elements of PBL in this history lesson but I have also used it for Science, Maths and Geography lessons. For me, the most important aspect of PBL is the hook. If the children are interested and motivated there will be a 100% buy in to your suggestions and ideas.

Once again, as I have said with all of the learning theories in COETAIL course four, I think that PBL is an absolute must for student learning; particularly in a world where problems, dilemmas and difficulties seem to become more prevalent on a daily basis.

 

I say! Anyone for a game of cards?

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Photo credit: the game hunter

Gamification, Game-based learning, Using games in the classroom, Gametime, Gamelearn…So many names and ideas connected by the word ‘Game’ when it comes to education. And why is that? Simple – because it is one of the most important learning methods ever created. And another thing – unlike many other aspects of learning – it is FUN!

In my case it has, without doubt, been the most important learning platform in my life. I have constantly used gamification to better develop my knowledge and understanding of so many different subjects, ideas and concepts.

When I was younger, I was never a pupil who showed the slightest bit of interest in Maths, English, French or any other school topic to be quite honest. Even geography and history, my two favourite subjects, mostly bored the life out of me. This is quite a damning statement considering I would often go home after school, get one of the Encyclopaedia Britannica books out from their shelves in our living room, and spend a couple of hours reading about the first World War or British Colonial rule in West Africa.

But let’s be honest – I didn’t do this everyday or even every week. No! It took something really special to get the historical motivation levels up and that was…Sid Meier’s Civilization!

This game transformed my understanding of what history was all about: It taught me about different periods of history; It taught me the importance of science in history; It taught me why geography was so key to the settlement of certain areas of the world. However, most important of all, it gave me a better understanding of just how fun learning could be!

And so I am a huge fan of gamifying education where possible. I say ‘where possible’ because even I (a diehard fan of gamification) understand that it is something that doesn’t always fit the teaching and learning that needs to take place in certain lessons and units.

However, when it is applicable, I would absolutely advocate its use in lessons! Sometimes it means more work and effort on the part of the teacher; but when it does work, it really does work!

Examples of Gamification in my classroom

Beat the Teacher

This is a concept I  recently introduced. The idea is that the children are presented with a short independent writing task. The children should only be given 30-40 minutes to write and the initial introduction should be fun with an element of challenge. I used our recent Egyptian unit to create a lesson where the children had to write a letter to the Goddess Hathor; pleading with her to bring rain so the River Nile could flood. I then explained to the children that I would also be competing and that if they could write a better letter than mine they would receive five Dojo points. As soon as I said I would be competing, the interest levels soared! The writing had now become a game, a competition, and they wanted the prize and the satisfaction of beating the teacher.

One of the letters which beat the teacher!

Class Dojo

I believe that this will be familiar to many of you. If not – I absolutely recommend this to any primary/elementary classroom teacher. I have already read numerous blog posts and blog post comments either vilifying or eulogizing this online program. I am a eulogizer of Class Dojo and I truly believe that, if it is used correctly, it can have a monumental impact on the children in your class. Firstly, I would say to any educator who finds this application to be an overrated waste of time “You aren’t using it the right way!”

Class Dojo has to be used constantly and consistently in all lessons. I write the student’s points on the sides of the board or on a piece of paper rather than have the Class Dojo screen open all the time. I then add the points onto the individual child’s avatar/monster when they have gone home; this takes no more than five minutes at the end of the day. I also send point totals home and we have a class points total that we try to beat each term.

Another aspect that I have added is the physical prize. That is, if any of my students achieve a score of more than twenty five Dojo points in a week, I will give them a prize. This prize is usually a bag of mini KitKats or an indoor playtime session for ten minutes. In the fourteen week of term so far I have had four of my students win this prize. If Prizes, Bonuses, competition and a weekly wage make adults happy why wouldn’t they have exactly the same affect on a child?

Everybody wants to be rewarded!

Morning Card and Board Games

Once upon a time I used to have 15-20 minute morning activities where the children did small Maths or English tasks before we started lessons. I had practised this routine for five years until last year when I finally decided that these morning tasks were a waste of time. For some teachers these morning tasks are incredibly useful and the children in their classes get a lot out of them. For me, they are a total waste of the twenty minutes we have before formal lessons begin! I prefer to let the children talk, socialize and use their maths and English skills to play games like Top Trumps, Snakes and Ladders, Spades, Pyramids and other card/board games. The use of these morning games has an implicit impact that cannot be understated. It teaches them skills like: the importance of socialising, learning to win the right way, playing with other children they don’t normally play with and learning to lose the right way.

Snakes and ladders
FUN with trumps
FUN with trumps

To conclude…

Games are FUN! Games allow us to LEARN in a FUN way. So surely it is a no brainer to say that wherever possible education should be about students being given the opportunity to LEARN in a FUN way. So why not use games and gamification to enhance the student’s learning!

 

I want to work with you!

 

Photo credit: Pixabay
Photo credit: Pixabay

Does connectivism have a real shot at being a true learning theory?

Yes! Well…mainly yes!

As the new coordinator of primary history at our school (sorry if you have read any of my previous posts where I have mentioned this numerous times) I would argue that connectivism is now an essential part of a school’s structure. Let me begin with a few moans, then I will get onto the reasons why I think that certain aspects of connectivism are essential for a modern school.

I don’t know about you but I can’t begin to count the number of school training sessions where I am supposed to have been given a new skill, learning tool or pedagogical approach and then never used it; or have never been able to use it or have never had the time to use it. Of course this isn’t true of most training or INSET sessions. No! Credit where credit is due-most are very helpful and include speakers who provide you with a sense of drive and purpose!

Then there are planning sessions. During my time in education I have experienced all of the following while I have been part of a planning session: depression, enjoyment, frustration, happiness, boredom, apathy and jubilation. Generally, I have to say that I thoroughly enjoy planning sessions with my current year group; this is largely thanks to the great team I work with.

However, I am also aware that there are other teachers at my school whom I have never planned with and have always wanted to plan with. So I decided that I would create history planning groups where I could connect and plan with other teachers I don’t normally get the chance to plan alongside.

This term, I have taken three different plans from three different year groups and invited teachers from different year groups (YR to Y6) to help me deconstruct and improve each of the plans. And…the results have been promising; in fact they been extremely promising. I would actually say that the first of these planning meetings was probably the best planning session I have ever been a part of. The key to this meeting being such a success lay in the willingness of the different participants to share and trust each other with their ideas and knowledge. In essence they/we connected and shared our ideas, knowledge and concepts. This allowed us to develop completely new approaches to each of the lessons we had been adapting.

The management and marshalling of resources to achieve desired outcomes is a significant challenge. Realizing that complete knowledge cannot exist in the mind of one person requires a different approach to creating an overview of the situation. Diverse teams of varying viewpoints are a critical structure for completely exploring ideas. Innovation is also an additional challenge. Most of the revolutionary ideas of today at one time existed as a fringe element. An organizations ability to foster, nurture, and synthesize the impacts of varying views of information is critical to knowledge economy survival. Connectivism- a learning theory for the digital age 

I am sure that many of you already have these sort of planning approaches in operation at your current schools. At the schools I have worked at, the process for planning certain subject lesson plans has always fallen to either the year group or subject leader with little or no input from outside those two areas. However, through the connections the other teachers and I formed in these planning sessions we created a foundation for a new, improved plan to be born.

These are some of the key principles of connectivism (taken from Connectivism- a learning theory for the digital age ) which I think were essential to the planning process we undertook when revamping the historical plan we were working on:

  • Learning and knowledge rests in diversity of opinions.
  • Learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources.
  • Capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently known
  • Nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning.
  • Ability to see connections between fields, ideas, and concepts is a core skill.

I have included the plan we reconstructed because I honestly think it may well be the best history plan I have had the pleasure to work on. I would also like to conclude that whether or not you truly believe connectivism has a shot at being a learning theory – I certainly do! And I will continue to believe that it needs to be considered as an essential and integral part of a modern school’s learning environment!

 

Heart attack in the playground!

Photo Credit: Snides and Associates inc

The playground – probably the most creative environment in the world!

Yesterday I sat on a bench, near my local park, watching my children climb, run and clamber over a brand new jungle gym. As I was watching, I noticed just how quickly all the children playing on the jungle gym quickly got bored with the slides, the climbing wall and the wood-chain bridges which made up the jungle gym. Well that isn’t exactly true! They didn’t exactly get bored with the equipment; they got bored with using this equipment the same way all the time!

As I continued to watch, I was particularly interested to see the way my own children reacted to their older peers innovative (and at times terrifying) use of the jungle gym as an ‘adult heart-attack inducing’ machine! I saw a ten year old use a metal tunnel (4 metres high) as a trapeze rope. I also saw numerous children, including my own, holding onto the railings the opposite way round; so that if they let go they would have a 3 metre fall to the playground. And as I watched, I started to think…

My children were actively solving problems without my input. I wasn’t teaching them how to hold onto the railings from the opposite direction! I wasn’t telling them how to run up the slide backwards and then jump down from the climbing wall; as far as I  know you are meant to climb up the climbing wall and slide down the slide!

Watching my children, me – in a continual state of abject terror, I started to see the parallels between their play and some elements of teaching where I may have flipped (or rotated – I am going to use this term today because I think it has more of a multi-directional feel and I am sick of hearing the term flipped) the learning in my classroom.

Example One

Two years ago I had a student who was brilliant at maths and I mean brilliant! This student was at least three years ahead of his cohort and the maths we were teaching him simply wasn’t challenging him. So after a brief discussion with a fellow teacher, who is both highly creative and extremely knowledgeable, I decided to start using a combination of Khan Academy lessons with secondary (junior high school) curriculum learning objectives. The student would work in a small room next to my class. He would watch the Khan Academy video/videos then he would complete the maths investigation or assignment he had been given.

I think it is fair to say the results were mixed. The student certainly became more focused for a while. He also enjoyed the challenge that came from learning about new topics like algebra, negative numbers or converting fractions to decimals. However, being seven years old, he simply didn’t have the maturity or vocabulary to access a lot of the video’s content. He also missed the feeling of being around other members of the class during maths lessons. Verdict: A good idea and start with a less positive outcome.

So many of the sessions focused in on how important it is to foster relationships in the classroom:  Whether it is between teacher and student or between student and student – turning learning on it’s head

Example Two

My second example of rotated learning is very much a success story and is almost exclusively based on another COETAILer’s ideas and thoughts. I am going to try and explain just how fantastic this example of rotated learning is, however I am not sure that I will truly be able to do it justice! To better understand the premise, you need to read Philip Arneill’s blog post. It was his blog post which acted as a catalyst and inspiration for my dalliance with extreme classroom rotation!

After reading Philip’s post, you will understand the incredible scope for student empowerment this type of lesson can bring. last year I decided to use his flipped classroom model to encourage my students to think, learn and teach in a different way. In the example below, we combined a student’s teaching with a ‘Scrapheap Challenge’ lesson (this was an open-ended lesson which challenged the children to build objects which could be helpful or useful in the real world)

I think it is fair to say the results were better than I could possibly have imagined. The students were incredibly focused, engaged and motivated with the all aspects of the teaching and learning. I would urge all teachers to have a go at this. It really does open your eyes up to the incredible skills our students already have which we simply don’t access! Verdict: Brilliant!

Increasingly, education’s value-add is and will be in the coaching and troubleshooting when students are applying their learning, and in challenging students to apply their thinking to hands-on learning by doing and teaming:  so let’s have them do these things in class, not sit and listen. We know that collaboration is a critical skill set which can’t be developed easily either on-line or at home alone– let’s have students learn it with us in our classrooms. Let every classroom be a collaborative problem solving laboratory or studioReverse Instruction: Dan Pink and Karl’s “Fisch Flip”

Back to the playground

My children had already been taught to use the basic playground equipment many years ago when they were much younger. They would watch as myself or my wife would demonstrate the basics of using a swing, slide or climbing frame and then they would copy our techniques as they swung, slid or climbed over the equipment. However, this time, I had nothing to do with the new heart-stopping methods they were now employing on the jungle gym. They were watching older children’s techniques and methods actually being used right in front of them; and they were learning to use and adapt them so that they increased the risk but also the enjoyment.

Isn’t this what learning should be about?

Reverse instruction! Flipped learning! Rotated learning! Upside down and back to front, topsy-turvy learning! Whatever you want to call it, whenever it is possible to do, it should be done. I know that it can’t be done all the time. However, if it is done correctly, students should be given as many opportunities to learn in a rotated classroom setting.

Why do we, in the status quo,  replicate in person in our classrooms what is easily available elsewhere, the content delivery/skill modeling, and then have kids apply their learning to difficult problems at home, without us there to help? – Reverse Instruction: Dan Pink and Karl’s “Fisch Flip”

 

 

Failure!

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Photo credit: Heinzmarketing
Since I first started the Coetail course, all the way back in February, I think it fair to say that I have been heavily influenced and affected by the different ideas and philosophies that I have been exposed to. As both an educator and parent, my personal outlook on teaching and learning has undoubtedly changed. I look back at the way I used to be and wonder how I could have been so blind to so many of the ideas that I have had over the last eleven months. There is no doubt in my mind that this state of change has come about thanks to three game-changers:

  1. The growth and development of my understanding when it comes to all things technological. This would also include my own understanding of how I can better plan and use technology to further develop the learning in my classroom. This has largely been achieved through my participation of this course.
  2. The second is through the growing number of discussions that I have had with colleagues at my school. These are people who also feel the same urge that I have to push/improve the integration of technology within our school’s learning environment.
  3. The Third area has been the school’s willingness to heavily upgrade the digital infrastructure of the school. This has included a large investment in the number laptops and tablets as well as a significant improvement in the WiFi and broadband connections.

As a result of these significant changes (some might say monumental changes) my personal feelings and attitude has gradually been transformed – I feel more confident in my own abilities: I feel angry and frustrated with myself and others for not realising my potential: I feel more able to enthuse and motivate the students I teach in a less restrictive way: I feel worried and nervous about the future – I am afraid that these feelings will be lost when I finish this course.

These are but a few of the many feelings I have about ‘Technology Integration’ within teaching and learning.

However…

I wanted to include these mainly positive feelings because this week was a bad week for me and the application of ‘Technology Integration’.

This week I encouraged, enabled and made technology accessible to my students so that they could more effectively achieve their learning goals. Were the results everything I hoped they would be? The answer to this question has to be a resounding ‘No’!

Where did it go wrong?

The use of blendspace to create our own word banks and setting descriptions didn’t really work; the reason being that the videos selected were confusing to the children – they found it difficult to separate the characters from the setting.

In a second lesson with a digital focus, the creation of historical news reports on the Ancient Egyptian Farming cycle using 2ink’s Green Screen iPad App meant that the children spent too much time on – learning to use the application – and not enough time on presentation and content.

Overall, this week has been a sobering lesson in the problems that can be experienced when you try to change lessons to have focus that is supported by a digital format.

If I was to further break the lessons down , I would actually say that I was substituting an independent blendspace focus (using the SAMR framework) for a more structured whole class video session. On reflection, I think that the way forward would be to change the videos for more relevant videos; and also to have the whole class watch all the videos together (with an option for those children who still needed time to review the videos being given the opportunity to use an iPad or laptop to review the videos after everyone has watched each video in turn).

With the second lesson it is more about the children getting used to a new piece of software and being given the time to experiment with this software. The App is tricky to use at first and it takes time to understand how to create effective videos using a Green Screen. I still think that it should be used but I would give the children more time to play with the Green Screen technology before using it to present their historical news reports.

Wow! What a week!

So that’s it! I have had enough…

No clearly that isn’t the case! However, it has made me realise that although technology has it’s place, it is sometimes the case that more traditional methods are just as pertinent. To me, this means that we have to be very careful when integrating technology in our lessons, units and curriculums. It is the learner that we need to be concerned with. We need to make sure they are provided with the best learning route to achieve their individual learning goals.

Ahem…

However, I have also learned this week that if you do persevere and give the children time to get used to a particular learning tool (whether that is an App, program or device) then students will embrace it, use it and adapt it to become more complete learners. When it comes to ‘Technology Integration’ the key areas for me are:

  • Time – students and educators being given the time to experiment, play and use devices, Apps, programs and connections to enhance their learning.
  • Motivation – providing a medium that stimulates and encourages the students so they actively want to learn.
  • Failure – the opportunity for students to fail when they are working with new technologies and learn from that failure.

Finally I would like to end with this quote about Technology Integration from Wikipedia as I believe it accurately and concisely captures the essentials of what we should be doing to empower learning through ‘Technology Integration’. I have underlined the last section because, for me, this is an essential but often forgotten element of ‘Technology Integration’.

“Effective integration of technology is achieved when students are able to select technology tools to help them obtain information in a timely manner, analyze and synthesize the information, and present it professionally. The technology should become an integral part of how the classroom functions — as accessible as all other classroom tools. The focus in each lesson or unit is the curriculum outcome, not the technology.”

We live? We die? You decide!

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Photo credit: History Crushes

You must yourselves realize the power of Athens, and feed your eyes upon her from day to day, till love of her fills your hearts; and then, when all her greatness shall break upon you, you must reflect that it was by courage, sense of duty, and a keen feeling of honour in action that men were enabled to win all this, and that no personal failure in an enterprise could make them consent to deprive their country of their valour, but they laid it at her feet as the most glorious contribution that they could offer – Taken from Pericles funeral oration

It really is difficult to appreciate the impact that great historical people had on the world they lived in (and is some cases the world we live in today). The choices they made directly affected thousands (or millions) of people who lived under their rule. The consequences of their actions could be catastrophic for the people they governed; or they could bring untold wealth, power and renown to the citizens of that state.

So what does any of this have to do with teaching and learning?

Well, after a recent talk with a small group of my peers, I realised that we don’t really give the children an opportunity to take on the roles of these great leaders and figures from history. No instead we get them to watch a video on Boudicca, Julius Caesar, Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Henry VIII…etc. And then we expect them to write about the motives, rational and reasons these people had for making the decisions they made.

So after much deliberation, I think the ideas below might just present students with a small understanding of what it was like to be responsible for thousands of lives!

I have decided to adapt a decision making game (from a book called ‘Creative teaching in the classroom’ by Rosie Turner-Bisset) to truly give the children an opportunity to walk in the shoes of great historical leaders. The game in this book is based on the arrival of the conquistadores in the New World. Firstly the children have to take the role of either the Aztecs or the Spanish. Then they make decisions based on the actual events from that time. Ultimately, the decisions they make will/won’t affect what happened over 500 years ago.

Adapting the game for my purposes:

At the moment I am in the middle of altering our Year 5 (Grade 4) history topic on Ancient Greece. As you may have guessed , I have decided to use Pericles (Statesman and first citizen of ancient Athens) as a test subject for this prototype lesson. My aim is to combine an adaptation of the ‘Aztec vs Spanish game’ with a digital slideshow presentation (this is included below with the lesson plan and the game script). The slideshow uses high impact images and key words to really drive home the difficult choices that Pericles and the Athenians had to make. The slideshow also provides an opportunity for the teacher to see whether the children are unduly influenced by visual images when making decisions.

It must be said that the decision making story is heavily adapted and altered from the original; however, it does use actual events from the war to reinforce the historical accuracy and realism of the lesson.

I also think that it would be a good idea for the teacher to role-play the part of Pericles. This isn’t an essential part of the lesson but I do think it will give it more impact and believability.

My aim is to teach the lesson to one of the Year 5 classes while the Year 5 teachers watch. I don’t know whether this will be successful but I hope it will give them a better idea of the skills I am trying to impart to the children. If it is successful I really do believe that there is scope to add it to other history units in the upper year groups of our primary (elementary) school.

Finally, Caesar said ‘Veni, Vidi, Vici’ but I wonder what the students will say after they have had a small taste of what it truly means to rule?

Lesson plan:

Slideshow for the game:

Consequences game:

 

Bike-to-chart

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Photo credit: LA county bike association

Infographics? Data visualization? Digital notetaking? What do these words mean?  Me – No idea!

Actually, this isn’t exactly true! I did know what infographics were but I didn’t know that they were called infographics. The first time I had actually come across these type of images was when I had teamed up with Palvinder Thurman for our course 2 final project. Palvinder suggested using Piktochart as a method for delivering our RUA’s message in a more visual and understandable way to children at a primary school level. She also talked about how useful and easy this program/application was to use. So, on a late Saturday evening, I briefly powered up the laptop and had a look at the application. However, I soon turned back to the football (soccer) match I had been watching on the television – and that was where I left it…until now!

I really should have listened more carefully to Palvinder because I now realise the potential this application has! I guess that we don’t really notice the merits of a particular program or application until we are actually faced with a situation where we are given an opportunity to experiment with it; this is one of the reasons why I have really enjoyed the COETAIL program so far.

I have decided to use Piktochart in an upcoming PSHE (Personal, Social, Health, Education) lesson from a unit on safety that we are currently doing in class this term. I haven’t actually altered the lesson plan that much as the original material is relevant and engaging to the students. The only alteration I have made is to the lesson’s independent task section where I have switched the original poster making activity to a Piktochart-infographic focus. Now I am aware that it isn’t a massive change but it does allow the children to add their infographics directly to our class blog which would give it more meaning and exposure to those out there in Cyber-Space. It also gives the children an application which is easy-to-use when it comes to the creation and presentation of ideas and learning.

I have included the lesson plan and my own Bicycle infographic (which I am particularly proud of) for you to use/adapt as you see fit. I am looking forward to seeing how the children cope with the task. Personally I think they will love it because it involves visual images – and that is always a winning ingredient with children!

Bike Safety
Bike Safety through traffic lights

Once upon a time…

We All Have A Story To Tell

Photo Credit: Magenta Rose

Once upon a time, there was a small girl named Adi. Adi was an energetic and enthusiastic girl who loved playing at home, visiting the local parks and going to school. It’s true! She really did love her School! Well, it’s mostly true. She loved almost everything about school except for one thing-that most awful and dreadful task known as…writing. Adi detested writing with all her heart! Story writing, letter writing, diary entries, poems…you name it, if she had to write it, she hated it!

At home her parents simply didn’t know what to do. At school her teachers found it harder and harder to motivate Adi to write. They just couldn’t understand why this little girl hated writing so much! And so each year at her school,  Adi found newer and more varied reasons to hate writing with an even greater passion.

Adi’s parents eventually gave up and her teachers started to think that she was a lost cause.

Just when everyone had given up a new teacher suddenly arrived at her school. The teacher was called Miss Lennon and she was different. For a start, she didn’t dress or talk the same way as the other teachers did. To Adi, she seemed more alive than the other teachers.

Miss Lennon encouraged the students to take more of an interest in the world around them. She also told them fantastic stories that made them think about things in a different way. She listened to the children’s stories, laughed at their jokes and made them feel a part of something new and exciting.

However, this wasn’t the best thing about Miss Lennon. No, the best thing about Miss Lennon for Adi, was the way she made English lessons feel! She used maps, pictures, drama and debates to make stories and poems come alive. She transformed the English lesson into a fun and interesting place to be. One day, she introduced Adi and the rest of the class to the digital story. The story being shown belonged to a friend of hers. The brilliant thing about the story was the way it combined the student’s original story with Miss Lennon’s voice over, sound effects and images.

Adi had always loved visual storytelling. She enjoyed watching children’s programs, on YouTube, that told interesting and exciting stories- programs like Jackanory Junior!

Miss Lennon then demonstrated how it was possible to use an Application called iMovie to create a story that could be uploaded to the web for everybody to see and hear. The combination of images, sound effects and an interesting story line hooked Adi like the proverbial fish seeing a work wriggling on the end of a fishing line.

Adi had always loved making her own movies at home and she desperately wanted to know how to do it!

So she went to see Miss Lennon during her break and asked her if it was possible for her to make a digital story. Miss Lennon said “Of course it is Adi,” and explained how the application worked. She showed Adi how to add effects, record her voice, cut video or images and choose a sound track. Miss Lennon also explained that Adi would need to write a story script for her digital story before she began recording her movie.

Adi writing a story script? That didn’t sound good! But do you know what – she didn’t care! She was going to make a movie – no matter what it took to make the movie, she would make it!

The moral

This story helps to remind me of the impact that a different medium (in this case digital storytelling) can have on those children who are reluctant to write. Personally, I think that the correct use and application of digital media has a pedagogical impact on children that is beyond measurement.

To better demonstrate the impact of digital storytelling I have included a few examples of children’s digital story work. Some examples have been written by children but edited and turned into a digital story by me. However, I have also included some examples where the story/poem has been entirely written, edited and produced by the children.

The Snake Poem

A poem complete by a child at home, then recorded, edited and produced by me on iMovie and uploaded to YouTube.

The Rock Cycle

An explanation of the rock cycle written and recorded by a student then edited and produced by me on iMovie. Afterwards it was uploaded to YouTube.

Five Sentence Story Summary

A five sentence story summary written and recorded by two students. The story was then edited and produced by the students on iMovie. Afterwards it was uploaded by students to my YouTube account.

Creating and watching digital stories has the potential to increase the information literacy of a wide range of students. Moreover, digital stories are a natural fit for e-portfolios, allowing students not only to select representative artifacts from their academic careers but also to create compelling resources that demonstrate the student’s learning and growth – Digital storytelling by Educause learning initiative

 

Story telling with slides…

 

Photo credit: Viaja!o.es

Two years ago I was very fortunate to be part of an in-house training session where our excellent and highly creative Literacy coordinator talked about the importance of story telling. During the training, he talked passionately about the need for teachers to take a small amount of time each week/day to read stories to their own classes.

Up until this session I had never really bothered to read any stories or books to any of the classes I had taught. Afterwards I think it is fair to say that I felt rather ashamed and embarrassed that I had been unwilling to take the time to read to the children I had been teaching at that time.

And so, since that training session, I have made it a goal to read to my class as often as I can. I have discovered that reading enables me to enthuse and motivate the children in a way that I had never thought possible. Since STD (Story Telling Day-great acronym I know) I have read dozens of books and stories to my current and previous classes.

I really cannot believe that I never realised the huge potential that story telling has on children (and adults). In the Youtube video by Matt Helmke, Matt describes Garr Reynold’s Presentation Zen’s SUCCES criteria. He explains that the final ‘S’ stands for ‘Story Telling’. I adamantly and wholeheartedly agree that to be a successful presenter, you have to be able to relate and explain stories effectively.

When it comes to delivering my own stories, I have had mixed success with adult audiences. I often find that my nerves tend to take over and so my stories tend to be rambling and bitty with an ineffective punchline at the end. However, with children I tend to have better success. This is probably due to the fact that I can use character voices and other storytelling gimmicks to deliver the message I actually want to convey.

So I have decided to combine three aspects of my current educational life to create a Google presentation for a story based on an ancient Egyptian fable called ‘The peasant and the workman’.

Three aspects of current educational life:

  1. To embed stimulating history lessons into the curriculum in new role as Primary History coordinator
  2. To provide children with stories which are historically relevant to a particular time.
  3. To use the ‘Zen Presentation’ style story slide shows to act as a visual stimulus for the stories.

The Egyptian test lesson

The idea is to introduce aspects of ancient Egyptian culture that the students will be able to identify i.e. government, produce, social structure…etc. Hopefully, the combination of me retelling the story and a limited yet powerful visual stimulus should open up a class debate on the beliefs, farming and social practices of the ancient Egyptians.

I am actually hoping to introduce this type of story-based lesson format into all units across the school. The format will probably change as I am wondering whether a ‘Zen’ style presentation combined with ‘Hot-seating’ a character from history might serve to introduce more famous personalities from different historical times i.e. Mary Seacole, Winston Churchill, Pericles…etc.

I have included both the edited story and the presentation below (although I am unhappy with some of the images and the background theme and would like suggestions on any pictures or theme choices people might be able to recommend).

If all goes well, I am going to trial the lesson at some point in the near future. Hopefully the children’s reaction will give me a better idea of how effective the slide show/story combination are when it comes to providing children with a better understanding of a particular time in history.

The Peasant and the Lord’s son story

The Preface

Tale of the Ninth Dynasty, which from the number of copies made would seem to have been very popular at that time. It relates to how a peasant succeeded in obtaining justice after he had been robbed. Justice was not very easily obtained in Egypt in those times, for it seems to have been requisite that a peasant should attract the judge’s attention by some special means, if his case were to be heard at all.

Egyptian Peasant on donkey slide

Long ago in the Salt Country of Ancient Egypt there lived a sekhti (peasant) with his family. He worked hard and traded in salt, natron, rushes, and the other products of Ancient Egypt. One day on his way to sell his salt, natron and rushes he had to pass through the lands of the house of Fefa. Now there lived a man named Tehuti, who was the son of the local lord. When Tehuti saw this peasant he decided that he wanted the donkeys, salt, natron and rushes they carried.

 Shawl on grass slide

“I will take,” said he, “a shawl, and will spread it upon the path. If the sekhti walks his donkeys over it- and there is no other way- then I shall have his donkeys because he will be setting foot on my land.” And so Tehuti had one of his servants place a shawl over the path so that one end was in the water, the other was in his corn field.

When the sekhti came closer he made his donkeys pass over the shawl because had no choice!

Donkey eating corn slide

“Stop!” cried Tehuti pretending to be angry, “Surely you do not intend to drive your beasts over my clothes!”

“I will try to avoid them,” replied the good-natured peasant, and he caused the rest of his donkeys to pass through the corn field.

“Do you, then, walk your donkeys through my cornfield?” said Tehuti, more angrily than ever.

“There is no other way!” said the poor peasant. “You have blocked the path with your shawl, and I must leave the path!”

While the two argued one of the donkeys helped itself to a mouthful of corn.

“Look at that!” Tehuti cried. “Your donkey is eating my corn. I will take your donkey, and he shall pay for the theft.”

“This is robbery”, cried the sekhti, “in the lands of the High lord who has always treated robbers so badly? I will go to him. He will not accept what you have done to me.”

“I am the son of the local lord,” and saying this he beat the sekhti and stole all his donkeys.

 Egyptian Lord and Ladies slide

The sekhti wept and pleaded with him to restore his property but the Sekhti ignored him. Eventually, finding that he was wasting his time, the peasant took himself to the home of the High Lord of this part of Egypt to ask for his help. On his arrival the sekhti bowed low to the ground, and told the high lord what had happened. The sekhti revealed all that had happened to him on his journey, the way in which Tehuti had closed the path so as to force his donkeys to step on the corn, and the cruelty with which he had beaten him and stolen his property. The High lord said he would speak about this with the other lords in the hall of judgement.

 Peasant and lord/king slide

“Let this sekhti bring a witness,” the other lords said, ” and if he is right then Tehuti should be beaten, or he should be made to pay a small amount of money for the salt, natron and donkeys he has stolen.”

The High Lord said nothing, and the sekhti came to him after pleading with the high lord’s servants. The sekhti hailed him as the greatest of the great, the orphan’s father, the widow’s husband, the guide of the needy, and so on.

The sekhti spoke so cleverly that the Lord Steward was interested and flattered by what the sekhti had said.

Food and drink slide

Now at that time there sat upon the throne of Egypt the King Neb-ka-n-ra, and the high lord decided to ask his advice.

He went to the High lord and said “My lord, a sekhti whose goods were stolen has asked me to help him. He spoke very well and I think he may be correct in what he says. What would you do my king?”

“Do not answer his talk,” said the king, “but make sure that you put his words in writing and bring them to me. See that he and his wife and children are supplied with food and drink, but do not let him know who provides it.”

The Lord Steward did as the king had commanded him. He gave to the peasant bread and beer and to his wife enough corn to feed herself and her children. Although the sekti was very grateful he didn’t know where the food was coming from. And he still wanted his donkeys, salt, rushes and natron back.

Papyrus slide

So for a second time the peasant came to the high lord and asked him to help; and he came a third time. On the third time, the High Lord commanded that he be beaten with sticks, to see whether he would stop coming. But no, the sekhti came a fourth, a fifth, a sixth time, always speaking cleverly and kindly. The High lord kept ignoring him but the sekhti did not despair and he came again a ninth time. And on the ninth time he called, the high lord sent two of his servants to the sekhti, and the peasant was terrified, for he feared that he was about to be beaten once more. The message, however, was a different one. At last the peasant had convinced the high lord that he may have been treated badly by Tehuti. He then wrote sekhti’s claims on clean papyrus and sent it to the king, as the king had commanded. Neb-ka-n-ra also liked the way the sekhti had spoken. However, he left the judgement to the high lord.

Egyptian palace slide

The High lord decided to take away all Tehuti’s money, lands and titles and gave them to the sekhti, who moved to the king’s palace with all his family. Afterwards the sekhti became the chief adviser of King Neb-ka-n-ra, and was greatly loved by the king and all the people.