NUMROS

Photo credit: Beastsofwar

It is a well-known established fact throughout the many-dimensional worlds of the multiverse that most really great discoveries are owed to one brief moment of inspiration. There’s a lot of spadework first, of course, but what clinches the whole thing is the sight of, say, a falling apple or a boiling kettle or the water slipping over the edge of the bath. Something goes click inside the observer’s head and then everything falls into place. The shape of DNA, it is popularly said, owes its discovery to the chance sight of a spiral staircase when the scientist’s mind was just at the right receptive temperature. Had he used the elevator, the whole science of genetics might have been a good deal different.

This is thought of as somehow wonderful. It isn’t. It is tragic. Little particles of inspiration sleet through the universe all the time traveling through the densest matter in the same way that a neutrino passes through a candyfloss haystack, and most of them miss – Terry Pratchett

However some of these inspiration particles actually hit home! Very occasionally, some of them actually hit the cerebral jackpot – the Texas tea of the neuron world – the black gold of the brain.

In my opinion, this is exactly what happened to me, when I thought up the idea for NUMROS.

Now, it is very likely that a game like this has been created many times before, in many different ways, in many different schools. But that doesn’t matter!

I have created something I am genuinely proud of. Before Numros, I had another idea; and I think it was a pretty good idea. The game was called Grammar Slam and it has proved to be quite successful in the classroom. There is no doubt that I will be using the game again and I am sure it will continue to be a hit with the children. But it isn’t Numros!

So, what is Numros?

Hmm…where to begin?

I guess I have to start with the game’s origins, which are rooted in my nerdy game playing past. Once upon a time, I was a fully-fledged follower of Games Workshop’s Warhammer franchise. If you aren’t sure what Warhammer is, then I will enlighten you. Warhammer is a table top war game played with dice and miniature figures. It is played between two or more players and is set in one of two imaginary realms; one realm is a fantasy realm similar to J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth and the other is set in the far future where the galaxy is ruled by a God Emperor.

When I was younger, I adored collecting Warhammer books and figures, as well as playing the game. Even now, I still read many of the novels set in these imaginary worlds. I have also introduced many of my students to the different army books.

And so, that is where the inspiration for Numros came from.

How does the game work?

Well, Numros is also a tabletop war game. Like Warhammer it also includes miniature figures (only six for each side though), a dice (only one), rulers, turn taking and strategic planning.

I have included the game’s rules below.

What is the purpose of this game?

As you may be able to tell, the game is primarily designed to help children understand different mathematical concepts like algebra, BIDMAS and measurement. The game’s turn-based fantasy theme draws students in like a beehive draws bears towards a honeycombed prize. The children are immediately hooked by the fact that NUMROS is a game not a lesson. Another important factor is that the maths needed to play the game is incidental and unimportant to the player! The game’s other hooks include: the competition of battling opponents to be the ruler of Numros, the tactics and strategies needed to outwit an opponent, the diversity and potential narrative of the different fictional characters, the ability to work and collaborate with others in a team and the joy that victory brings in the various individual battles that take place in the game.

When I first introduced Numros to my students, I originally shared the rules via a Google Document. However, to really get them engaged, I used the Gold Fish bowl technique to demonstrate the game’s mechanics.

What was their response?

The reaction was beyond anything I could have imagined! It simply took my breath away. They loved it! The Teaching Assistant, who works alongside me, had the great idea of creating a Google survey to catalogue the children’s responses. You only have to read it to see just how much they enjoyed it. I can honestly say that I don’t think I have had many better feelings in my teaching career than I had the first day Numros was introduced to my class.

What’s next?

The next step is to introduce the game to my maths set and then to more children in Year 6. I have already shared the game with another class in my year group and the feedback was excellent.

I have also added a some one-off spells to the game based on feedback to the first game we played as a class. Again, I have included the new spells below.


But it gets better!

Without doubt though, the best part of the Numros experience is the way the children have taken the game and adapted it to fit their purpose. They have already started to add their own rules. One group decided that figures would switch sides rather than be removed if an opponent lost a battle. Another group decided to switch the playing area so it would be smaller. Many of the groups changed the number of turns from five to a different number; another group thought it would be better to play to the last figure standing. The introduction of spells was talked about and introduced in a highly innovative way by one creative soul. Then there was the issue of dice – why have a six sided dice when you could have a ten sided dice?

Children have videoed their games for posterity. One ambitious group decided to create a video tutorial to help others better understand the game.

During game play sessions, I have heard the terms ‘messing around’, ‘play testing’ and ‘trialling’ used to describe the concept of figuring the game out. I simply cannot explain or describe the shear amount of learning that has taken place over two hours of Numros game play.

The possibilities for this game are endless and I am already thinking of adapting the game to have an historical purpose. I haven’t decided just how to do this yet but I will find a way…

Session 1

Session 2

The Summit – Course 5 Final Project

Photo Credit: My most memorable activation

After weeks of hard work and steady progress we have finally reached the peak of StoryTeller Mountain. I think it is fair to say that the journey has provided the students and myself with an exciting classroom adventure; an adventure which shows no sign of stopping.

As I sit at the top of StoryTeller Mountain, looking out across the foothills, woodlands and peaks that make up the world of Educationia, I can just make out the COETAIL path I have cut through the Earth to get here. At some points it looks so worn that you would think there had been nothing there before. At other points, the path is almost completely overgrown so that you can barely see the original path.

Sitting here, watching the children in my class getting ready to set out on another adventure, I think back to the journey I have been undertaken to reach this point and I am reminded of the reasons why the COETAIL path looks the way it does.

The well-worn path

I have trodden some parts bare due to the continual visits I have made over the previous year and a bit. Two such areas include the Visual Literacy Lowlands and the awe-inspiring Gamification Canyon! Likewise, there are other areas where I have walked only the once and have never really thought about returning to; one such place is the Valley of Connectivism Learning Theory.

Regardless of where I have been and how long I have spent there though, one thing is absolutely certain, I have learned more about education, digital Literacy, pedagogy and technological integration in the previous year and a bit than I have in the previous eight years of my teaching career.

The Final Project

And so to my final project for the COETAIL course. I have included two separate videos based on the digital/video storytelling unit I wanted to trial with the children in my class. I hope that they make sense to you! Also please feel free to send me any feedback you have regarding the videos and/or the unit quality/content.

Telling a Story – Imovie Style

My thoughts on the project

I say! Anyone for a game of cards?

dogs-playing-poker[1]
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!

 

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”

 

 

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

 

The Greatest Quiz Machine Ever?

4316573279_7ff872135f
Photo Credit: misconmike via Compfight cc

The Quiz – is this one of the greatest inventions ever? I mean who doesn’t love a good quiz? Since I can remember (which admittedly isn’t that long ago), people have always wanted to test their understanding and knowledge by taking part in ‘The Quiz’. As a medium, it provides so many of our social needs: socializing and teamwork;  the need to find answers to questions; competition and recognition. The quiz sates a natural curiosity that drives us to search for the answers to any number of questions we might have.

I am a quiz lover! I have always loved boardgames like Trivial pursuit. I loved watching University Challenge, QI, Blockbusters, fifteen to one, the weakest link…the list could go on. Why? Maybe it was because I wanted everyone to see that I at least had a little knowledge about something (I wanted recognition) or maybe it was because I thought I was better at the quiz than the other contestants or maybe I just wanted to learn something new! Whatever the reasons, the simple fact is that ‘The Quiz’ provides people with a fun way of challenging themselves to find the answers to questions they are interested in answering / finding the answers to.

The Greatest Quiz Machine Ever!
Photo credit: www.freequizzes.co.uk

Finally we have been given the World Wide Web, and with it, the search engines that transform this entity into the greatest quiz machine ever created! To reinforce this point you only need read the article by Bob Sprankle where he talks about Google’s ‘Google a day‘ as a method for encouraging students to think more carefully about the searches they make; however, for me, this quote from the same article is even more important:

I can imagine classes breaking up into teams to compete against each other, or graphing their best times each day. Each daily answer could also lead to even more research for students.

Here we have a perfect example of the Web’s quiz like qualities and it’s abilities to act as a tool for educating in a fun, interesting and open manner. I am going to try and adapt the ‘Google a day’ game so that the children in my class get the chance to have a go at being contestants on the greatest quiz machine ever created. Not only will they be learning about something completely new in a fun and exciting way, they will also be learning how to carry out a more comprehensive and detailed internet search. And who knows – they may even win a prize…

A final thought!

To me the Web is still a mystery and despite my attempts to read many of the articles designed to give you a better understanding of what the World Wide Web is, I still find myself struggling to make sense of it. For me, the problem is the sheer size and complexity of the web! I mean the internet is so many different things to so many people.

One article that did help me to better understand some of the web’s components was this list of twenty different things that make up the web and browsers by the Google Chrome team. After reading this article, I definitely had a clearer idea of some of the terms and phrases that help people to better understand the different aspects of the web. However, if I am being completely honest, even though I have read this article I still find the web an intricate and baffling entity which puzzles, amazes, helps and terrifies me in equal measures!

Photo credit:www.behance.net/gallery/The-Amazing-Internet

Will somebody please help Robin!

Robin’s Tale

Photo credit:discoveryeducation.com

Robin is seven years old. He has just received his first school email address and his parents have just bought him a brand new iPad for his birthday. He has an older sister who is 15 years old. She spends most evenings on her laptop chatting to her boyfriend, friends and classmates about everything and everyone! He also has an 11 year old brother who spends most of his nights playing on his Playstation 4. Robin’s mother works at a local supermarket where she often has to work the night shift. His father works for Apple – but his job means that he often travels away from home. At Robin’s school they have just begun to experiment with iPads, but they only have a single class set of twenty five for the whole school so Robin has only had a basic tutorial in how to use them. Robin’s teacher, Mr Milton, isn’t really comfortable using iPads, laptops or desktops for teaching and learning; preferring to use more traditional methods.

Robin, who only has a basic understanding of how to connect to the internet using his iPad, takes out his brand new iPad and decides it is time to start his online journey…

So, who is ultimately responsible for Robin’s online safety?

Photo credit:www.ne-derbyshire.gov.uk
A. The Teacher
1477899923_5fb736f33c
Photo Credit: ben110 via Compfight cc

Absolutely! Although the teacher may only have a limited understanding of technology and the internet, he has a responsibility to himself and his students to be more proactive in keeping up with current Ed-Tech policies and practice. After all, it is no good burying your head in the sand and pretending that it is somebody else’s job to educate students about the possible dangers of being online.

B. The Parents
7252002214_51aeca6dfa
Photo Credit: amslerPIX via Compfight cc

Absolutely! Even though the parents are busy with other aspects of their work and family lives they are also responsible for ensuring that their children are connecting to sites that they have personally checked. I also think that it is important for the parents to demonstrate the positivity of being connected and online (which they/we often tend to forget).

A post which gives both teachers and parents a better understanding of online parental needs/concerns came from the commonsense media links attached to Mel Sylvester’s post which was recommended to me by Ken Ip.

C. The Siblings
9697767488_a97b17fd3e
Photo Credit: snaps via Compfight cc

Absolutely! Who are the biggest educators of younger children in families?

The parents? No!

The older siblings? Yes!

When you were a child, who did you want to emulate? For me it was always the older kids! After all, they are the ones who teach you new tricks, sporting skills, gaming techniques…the fun stuff! Robin’s sister (and probably his brother) should/will have been taught the rudiments of online safety. Not only that, his sister is actually living the online dream. So who better to give him a clearer idea of what he should be doing to stay safe online. I know that a lot of you will be saying ‘But how can we trust a teenager to give our children good advice?’ My reply to this would be ‘If we don’t start to trust this younger generation then what sort of message are we giving them?’

How can I use Robin’s Tale?

While pondering the idea of internet safety and who was responsible for bringing this issue to the attention of younger children I thought that a more real world approach might have the most impact. I have therefore decided to use an edited version of Robin’s Tale as a way of opening up a dialogue, with my class, about online educational responsibility. My hope is that the children will start to generate their own opinions and ideas about who should be giving them online safety guidance and what that guidance should be.

A difference of opinion

As you have already read, I have my opinions and ideas about the people I think are most responsible for needing to provide children with a better understanding of what it means to be safe online. However I believe that the children in my class will have more varied ideas about the people they believe are most responsible for their online safety.

Reversing the roles

I am also considering a home learning activity where the students have to educate their parents on how people can stay safer while they are connected to the internet. After all a bit of role reversal might serve as a good reminder of just how safety conscious their children are when it comes to online connectivity. And who knows. It may help parents and carers to become more aware of how to protect and nurture their own digital footsteps. There is nothing wrong with a gentle nudge towards the big door marked ‘online safety’.

Photo credit:www.prieto.cps.k12

Hey everyone! Look at me!

What exactly was a digital footprint?…Did I have a digital footprint?

This image was from digitalfamilysummit

To be completely honest I just didn’t know! How was I supposed to find the answers to my questions?

Well, I decided that I needed to spend more time looking at a variety of different articles on what a digital footprint actually was. After I had spent some time reading through some recommended reading on the subject, I found an article by Steven Anderson. He suggested that you could find a more complete understanding of what your own digital footprint looked like by googling yourself to see what linked you to the internet. So my decision was made and I decided to take his advice and google myself…

I started by carrying out a google search using my full name (with middle name included) and discovered, to my amazement, that there were links to some of my class’s Prezi’s that children had previously uploaded; the Prezi’s were actually linked to a class account associated with one of my email addresses.

After that I decided to try another google search; this time I would complete a google search using only my first and last name.

Guess what?

I found this very blog on the second page I searched! I know this may seem like a very obvious and mundane thing but I was both surprised and proud that I had a presence within the vast entity that is the web. At last I was a genuine user and had joined the grid-sorry for the Tron reference but I thought it was apt!

This image was taken from scotthawker.com

So I did have a digital footprint! I don’t think it was a very large footprint-probably a mosquito sized footprint if I was to actually carry out a more extensive search.  However, the most important factor was that I was truly happy that I had left an imprint on something that was used by billions of people.

And this got me thinking…If I was happy about my digital footprint, what would a student’s reaction be to having a piece of work, a blog, a prezi or any online creation accessible to billions of people? In the case of my year three students, it would be like they had suddenly been given a two week-all expenses paid-pass to Disneyland!

So what does all this mean?

It means that as educators and teachers we finally have an unbelievable opportunity to provide students with the most powerful means to student self-empowerment since teaching became a profession! I mean think about it – what do all children want, what do all teenagers want and what do all adults want? Simple – Recognition!

Everybody wants to be noticed and praised; even if it is only for a short time! It is a fundamental part of human nature! And what is true for adults is usually magnified for the younger generation. Therefore as educators and facilitators we have an obligation to take advantage of this fantastic medium we have been given access to. Students want to start leaving their footprints in the digital dirt as they start trekking across the Web’s Savannah! They want people to notice what they are doing. They want to build that connectivity that gives them recognition. This means that we have a responsibility to provide them with the tools and a guide for this journey!

You might liken it to another famous journey, only this time you might say – One small digital step for teaching. One giant digital step for learning!

Image provided by kidport

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Second School!

 

And from the depths of my limited and muddled mind was born an idea of the ‘Second School‘. I don’t know if this term has been used before but I think that it fits quite well with the central idea for my post this week.

First let me tell you the story of how and why I came to use the term ‘Second School’.

Well, it all started about a year and a half ago. I had almost completed the first term of my first year in my new Year Three team, and to be honest, I was finding it difficult! I was really struggling to find a stable platform for my teaching.

There were a number of factors for this. The first being that the  class I was teaching were the liveliest class I had ever taught; and by lively, I mean they had an almost god-like ability to bring chaos to every learning activity they were involved in. The second factor was the ability range of the children in the class; some of the children were so gifted that they were working three years beyond their year group’s ability range whereas there were other children who were working two years behind their age ability. And then there was a third and final factor which was my own lack of confidence and understanding with students at this age!

Well, as you can probably imagine, these different factors had a significant impact on my life! Firstly my teaching confidence sunk to the lowest point it had ever been at. I also had the constant feeling of pressure and stress at both work and home. As a result, I lost faith in all of the good practice and teaching that I had carefully and meticulously built up in my previous year group.

So what happened next?

Well, the obvious I guess, I decided that I had to do something about the situation I was in. So I began to form new connections within my year group and school. These opening connections gave me a very small taste of what was actually happening in the wider world of education; particularly in the area of Education-Technology.

One of these initial connections, as I have mentioned in a previous post, was an introduction to TWITTER and it’s power to act as a Personal Learning Network for teachers and students. The door was suddenly open for me to connect with other parts of the school. I was now able to find out what was happening with the school’s extra-curricular community, with the secondary school, with individual students and with other primary year groups.

As my class and I spent more time following Tweets and responding to them, I started to wonder whether I was making the most out of this social networking medium. The question I was asking myself was ‘How could I safely activate and capture my students interest whilst also providing a better learning platform for them?’

An interesting question! I decided to look for an answer to the question within our school’s Twitter feed. And that is when I started to notice the large number of videos, photos and links connected to the Year Six children’s work. I also noticed that the children in my class were extremely animated when providing feedback and comments to the Year Six’s work they were seeing on the twitter feed. But the biggest surprise came when I found out that a lot of the fantastic projects that we were seeing on Twitter were actually being completed outside of the school.

What are we doing to promote critical thinking, questioning, and constructive criticism during lessons? Help students use Social Media to Empower, Not just connect – Andrew Marcinek – Edutopia 

And so the penny finally dropped…I needed to find a way to provide my students with a second school! If you like-it was a way of allowing them to build upon their classroom learning outside of school hours. In essence they would carry on with their individual learning journeys in a learning environment that they had created for themselves. Now I am aware that many of you have probably been doing this for a long time but for me it was an incredible experience as I started on this path towards a second school! I found myself re-vitalised and re-energised with the whole concept and idea.

PLN as an Engine of Support – And this must be transferred to our students as they begin to connect regularly both inside and outside of school. As educators, we must model positive use of learning networks and groups, and give students the proper foundations in the effective use of social media.  Help students use Social Media to Empower, Not just connect – Andrew Marcinek – Edutopia

So what have I done?

One of the first things I did was to make the online communication more regular and reciprocal between the students and myself. I made more use of the school’s email network to ensure that students felt confident and willing to open-up an online dialogue with me. I also created a weekly online story-writing challenge for the children to participate in while encouraging them to email each other more often in order to foster a greater connectivity and class togetherness. And so the ‘Second School’ came into being!

How do I keep it going?

The key to maintaining and building their interest in this second school has been a combination of the following areas and ideas:

1. Challenge and Reward Projects – The children take part in weekly or fornightly email challenges. These have included: writing a poem based on a picture; taking a photograph that really makes people think; creating a science experiment to investigate how we could find the answer to a particular question. These challenges are all rewarded with a set number of Dojo Points for their individual Class Dojo accounts (I have noticed that the children more actively participate when there is an actual reward – just like adults do).

2. Sharing their work with others on our school Twitter feed – The students work is shared with others on the school Twitter feed. Other teachers and classes then respond to this shared learning by tweeting their own comments.

image
An example of the Second School in action on Twitter!

3. Sharing with members of their own class – The children love sharing what they have done with their peers by reading stories, poems or science investigations they have created. They also enjoy explaining or teaching a new skill they have recently learnt to empower other children in the class to do the same.

I think that it is fair to say that the learning and creating they are carrying out in their second schools builds upon their learning in the classroom and, in most cases, improves on it! I know that there is a long way to go with this project but I think it is important for me to say that the second school has given me a new appreciation of what it means to be a teacher!

I want someone who has a sense of humor. I want someone who wants to learn, listen, and consistently share. I want someone who provokes my thinking. Help students use Social Media to Empower, Not just connect – Andrew Marcinek – Edutopia

Isn’t this what all students and teachers want?